Common Names: False sarsaparilla, wild sarsaparilla, shot bush, small spikenard, wild liquorice, rabbit root
Sub-category: Ivy family
Reaches a height of 30 to 60 cm. In the spring the underground stems produce compound leaves that are large and finely toothed. The stem divides into a whorl of 3 stems which branch up and out, each forming 3 to 7 (most often 5) pinnately compound leaflets; leaflets ovate, acute, serrate, green. Technically, all the leaflets on one plant are considered to be one entire leaf, and the stems that connect the leaflets are called rachis; this arrangement is called doubly compound. In some cases some of the leaflets are further completely subdivided, forming a triply compound pattern. Tiny white flowers, typically in three, globe-shaped clusters 4 to 5 cm wide, are produced on tall scapes that grow about the same height as the leaves. The flowers develop into purple-black berries. The leaves go dormant in summer before the fruits ripen.
Because it sometimes grows with groups of 3 leaflets, it can be mistaken for poison ivy; the way to tell the difference is that Wild Sarsaparilla lacks a woody base and has fine teeth along the edges of the leaves.
Found in northern hardwood forests. Blooms from May to July.
Primary Flower Color: White
Secondary Flower Color: White