E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Aralia nudicaulis L.
wild sarsaparilla
Araliaceae (Ginseng family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Jamie Fenneman  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #3617)

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Distribution of Aralia nudicaulis
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Species Information

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Perennial herb from a rhizome; stems erect, 30-70 cm tall, woody at base.
Basal leaves compound, of 3 major divisions that each have 3-5 leaflets or segments, 1 per stem, 30-50 cm long; ultimate segments saw-toothed, 5-12 cm long, egg-shaped-oblong.
Inflorescence of 3-7 globose umbels in flat-topped to paniculate clusters; flowers greenish-white.
Dark purple berries, 2-5 seeded, 6-8 mm wide.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Late Spring
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Black
Present over the Summer
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Moist streamsides, floodplains and forest in the montane zone; frequent throughout C and S BC east of the Coast-Cascade Mountains, infrequent northward, E to NB and NS and S to TN, GA, CO and WA.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Aralia nudicaulis

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 0 815 2500
Slope Gradient (%) -2 19 235
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 202 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 4 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: BG(8), BWBS(325), CWH(53), ESSF(25), ICH(1830), IDF(448), MS(206), PP(21), SBPS(21), SBS(1270)

Ecological Indicator Information

A shade-tolerant/intolerant, montane, transcontinental North American forb (absent from the Pacific region). Occurs in continental montane boreal and cool temperate climates on fresh to very moist, nitrogen-rich soils. Scattered to plentiful in continental forests (persists in clearings); sporadic on water-shedding and water-receiving sites in the coast-interior ecotone. Often associated with Disporum hooken, Gymnocarpium dryopteris, Oplopanax horridus, Smilacina racemosa, and S. stellata. A nitrophytic species characteristic of Moder and Mull humus forms.

SourceIndicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Information applies to coastal locations only)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is montane boreal & cool temperate.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

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General References