Wildflowers Tuesday – American Spikenard

Maybe the title should read from now on – Wildfruits instead of flowers, although there are quite a few species still flowering. But September is announced in the woods by a multitude of coloured fruits and suddenly previously ‘invisible’ plants are suddenly highlighted, revealing their most ornamental feature. Our fall gardens would also be so poor without these colourful displays!

Aralia racemosa fruits

Aralia racemosa in wild habitat, in early September

Aralia racemosa – American spikenard is a shrubby-looking perennial which grows in moist rich woods. Cultivated, but not too often, in the past it has had various other uses (the roots): for flavoring teas, as an ingredient in root beer and medicinal. Native Americans considered the root to be a blood purifying spring tonic, and called the plant Life-of- Man; it makes sense as it belongs to the ginseng family.

Aralia racemosa foliage

Aralia racemosa in late August, cultivated

6 replies
  1. Inger
    Inger says:

    I just noticed this plant in my garden today when the sun was shining. Do you know if the berries can be eaten? The birds seem to leave it alone and they usually have good taste

    • diversifolius
      diversifolius says:

      As long as the Natives used the rhizomes but not the fruits, for sure they are not edible. I only found it mentioned that the birds would eat them, but probably depends what else is around.
      Sometimes they also won’t eat the Viburnum fruits until winter time. More for us to enjoy!

  2. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    The fruits are a lovely color. I tried to grow this plant from seed but didn’t succeed. It’s probably not adapted to the dry summers here anyway. I enjoyed seeing them though.

    • diversifolius
      diversifolius says:

      Thank you. Most Aralia species need a cold/moist period to germinate, but really cold not the kind of 4C from the fridge; and indeed they are plants for shady and rather cool places.

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