Native Plant of the Week: American Spikenard ~ Aralia racemosa

American Spikenard ~ Aralia racemosa

American Spikenard is just finishing flowering in our woodlands. The tiny white flowers are insignificant on their own, but because they are clustered in umbels that make up a branched panicle, the whole panicle can be quite showy.
This is a large herbaceous perennial native, occurring on shaded slopes in mature, mesic woodlands. It can reach 5 or more feet in height. The leaves are compound, and each leaflet is heart-shaped.

Spikenard is a very attractive plant and can be utilized with great effect massed in any woodland garden. It grows well under trees, as a backdrop to shorter woodland perennials or layered with ephemerals that go dormant early - such as Virginia Bluebells.

Other nice attributes of this native include the dark purple stems and bright red (turning to dark purple) fruit.

Many native plant nurseries cultivate this plant, so if you have the right location, there's a good chance you can find a local source.

Kartesz, J.T., The Biota of North America Program (BONAP).
North American Plant Atlas. Chapel Hill, N.C.
If you have seen birds or other wildlife feeding on the berries, please post a comment.

American Spikenard is native to eastern North American as well as the southwest states. See map for range.