Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Virginia Snakeroot - Endodeca serpentaria   (L.) Rafinesque
Members of Aristolochiaceae:
Only member of Endodeca in NC.
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Section 4 » Family Aristolochiaceae
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Author(L.) Rafinesque
DistributionPresent nearly statewide, but scarce to locally absent over much of the eastern third of the Coastal Plain. Just one reported location (Nags Head Woods, Outer Banks of Dare County) east of Gates, Chowan, and Jones counties.

This is a widespread eastern US species, ranging from CT, MI, and IA south to southern FL and central TX.
AbundanceFairly common to frequent (but easily overlooked) over nearly all of the Piedmont and most of the Mountains. Rare to uncommon in the central and western Coastal Plain, and seemingly not numerous in the northwestern Piedmont and northern Mountains. Populations often consist of only 1-few plants. The assigned State Rank (S4) and Global Rank (G4) are too conservative; this is a very widespread species and ranks of S5 and G5 are warranted.
HabitatThe species is found mostly in shaded, mesic conditions -- various oak forests, Mesic Mixed Hardwood Forests, and mixed conifer-hardwood stands. It can occur in dry sites but normally where the soil is circumneutral. It does occur in old fields and powerline clearings, as well, though where there is some shading of these small plants. It is scarce in bottomland forests, preferring upland habitats.
PhenologyBlooms in May and June, and fruits from June to July.
IdentificationThis species has a wide spread of habitats, but where it occurs it is usually a "solitary" species, seldom more than just a few found in a given forested site. It has a slender but erect stem that ranges to about 6-10 inches tall, with a handful of scattered leaves along the upper part of the stem. Each leaf has an odd but distinctive shape; somewhat narrowly lanceolate, but with the basal part of each side somewhat parallel to each other and often not gently curved, and the leaf bases are small ear-lobes and not tapered to the petiole. The leaf is about 3 inches long and 1 inch wide. The single flower is quite unusual and hard to find without rooting around in leaves or dirt at the base of the stem. It has a slender pedicel of maybe 1 inch, and the narrow tubular flower is buffy-brown and curved at the end (like a broad hook), also about 1 inch long. Normally, the fruit is easier to spot, as it is a slender tube with a bulbous "club" at the end, in total about 2 inches long. Look at photos online to better understand what the species looks like in flower and fruit, as descriptions do not really "illustrate" the odd character of these parts. Many biologists seem to simply walk past this species, as it does not have colored flowers, and as it grows only to about 9 inches tall and never in colonies, but scattered among many other herbaceous plants on the forest floor. As strange as it may seem, this is the ONLY native hostplant species for the Pipevine Swallowtail in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain; watching a female flying back and forth through a powerline clearing looking for a plant you simply cannot find yourself, and then stopping to oviposit on a small plant, it is amazing that the plant stopped at is always Endodeca!
Taxonomic CommentsThe species has long been named as Aristolochia serpentaria, and included in the same genus with quite dis-similar woody vines, which have been moved to the genus Isotrema. Nearly all references now have these species moved out into separate genera with these "new" names.

Other Common Name(s)Turpentine-root, Serpent Birthwort
State RankS4 [S5]
Global RankG4 [G5]
State Status
US Status
USACE-agcpFACU link
USACE-empUPL link
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
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B.A. SorrieMixed upland woods, Piedmont of Moore Co. May 2015. MoorePhoto_natural
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