Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Purple-stem Angelica - Angelica atropurpurea   L.
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Section 6 » Order Apiales » Family Apiaceae
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AuthorL.
DistributionWidely scattered records for the mountains, with collections from Haywood and Buncombe counties, and sight reports from two others (Alleghany and Wilkes). However, as this is a Northern species, with no records for VA and a few for eastern TN, it has often been considered as not native in NC. In addition, the collections are all quite historical, but the sightings -- apparently from roadsides -- are more recent.

This is a Northern species ranging south only to northern DE, WV, and IA, with a few records for western NC and eastern TN (but none yet in VA).
AbundanceExtremely rare to very rare, apparently now just in the northern mountains. The NCNHP has it on its Watch List, but as W4 (rare but perhaps not native). Oddly, despite few records, they have a State Rank of S2S3, but the website editors feel that S1? is better, and suggesting to gather records as W7 (rare but poorly known). The Haywood County records seem to be for suitable wet habitats, and at the present time this website will keep that county in dark green on the map as a natural occurrence, but having the other counties as Provenance Uncertain.
HabitatThis is a wetland species, generally found in openings in wet woods, wet stream banks, and other damp ground. Recent sightings, however, have been along roadsides, perhaps damp ones, as the species should be found only in wet or very damp ground.
PhenologyBlooms in May and June, and fruits in July and August.
IdentificationThis is one of the state's most robust "native" herbaceous species, growing to 5-6' tall or higher. It has a smooth dark purple stem. The scattered alternate leaves are very long, about 8" long, but all leaves are pinnately divided or doubly-pinnate divided, into numerous elliptical or lanceolate leaflets. Each leaflet is about 3-4" long and about 1" wide, with serrated margins. The large umbel at the top of the stem has 20-45 rays each with a smaller umbel, and each ray (umbel stem) is about 2" long and spreading, such that the entire umbel is about 6" across in a shallowly rounded dome. The flowers are white. Despite this being what should be an obvious identification, the much more numerous A. triquinata is also found in the mountains; it is smaller, up to about 4' tall, is not quite as deeply dissected, the leaflets tend to have acuminate tips (as opposed to acute in this species), and it has fewer ray and small umbels (13-25 as opposed to 20-45 in A. atropurpurea). Lastly, A. atropurpurea has leaflets with a hyaline margin (a colorless and smooth narrow band along the edge of a leaf -- almost like a fingernail) whereas A. triquinata has a ciliate margin. You will need to hold a leaflet up to light and examine in a hand lens to see a hyaline margin. Do not confuse these with Heracleum maximum, which is very robust but has leaflets that look like maple leaves.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Great Angelica
State RankS2S3? [S1?]
Global RankG5
State StatusW4 [W7]
US Status
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