Angelica venenosa (J. Greenway) Fernald

Wood Angelica

Angelica venenosa plant

Family - Apiaceae

Habit - Taprooted perennial forb.

Stem - Ascending to erect, to 1.5 m, glabrous, sometimes glaucous.

Angelica_venenosa_stem.jpgStem and node.

Leaves - Alternate and sometimes also basal (1 or 2 basal leaves sometimes present at flowering), glabrous, short- to long-petiolate, the sheathing bases not or only slightly inflated, the uppermost leaves sometimes reduced to bladeless, somewhat inflated sheaths. Leaf blades to 25 cm long, triangular-ovate in outline, pinnately or ternately then pinnately 2-3 times compound, the leaflets distinct, these 15-50 mm long, mostly 10 mm or more wide, ovate or narrowly ovate to elliptic, occasionally with 1 or 2 basal lobes, narrowed or tapered at the base, bluntly or sharply pointed at the tip, finely toothed along the margins, densely short-hairy abaxially.

Angelica_venenosa_basal.jpgBasal leaf.

Angelica_venenosa_leaf.jpgCauline leaf.

Angelica_venenosa_sheath.jpgLeaf sheath.

Angelica_venenosa_leaflet2.jpgLeaflet abaxial.

Inflorescence - Mostly terminal, compound umbels, long-stalked, the stalks moderately to densely short-hairy. Involucre absent. Rays 18 to numerous, 1-8 cm long, moderately to densely short-hairy. Involucel of several entire bractlets, these mostly slightly shorter than the flower stalks, linear, short-hairy

Angelica_venenosa_inflorescence4.jpgInflorescence, ventral view.


Florets - Flowers 8 to numerous in each umbellet, the stalks 2-10 mm long, hairy. Sepals absent or minute triangular teeth. Petals 5, obovate, rounded at the tip, white. Stamens 5. Pistil 1 per flower, composed of 2 fused carpels, the ovary inferior, short-hairy, with a swollen nectar disc at the tip, the styles 2.


Fruits - Schizocarps consisting of 2 mericarps, 4-6 mm long, ovate-elliptic in outline, shallowly cordate at the base, flattened dorsally, sparsely to moderately short-hairy, dark brown with usually lighter ribs. Mericarps indehiscent, 1-seeded, often somewhat flattened, with 5 more or less prominent ribs, some or all of these sometimes winged.


Flowering - May - July.

Habitat - Forests, savannas, prairie edges, streambanks.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Other info. - This species is found in a well-defined band extending from Iron and Crawford Counties in Missouri, through the southwest corner of the state, and into Arkansas and Oklahoma. It is also common in the eastern U.S. It is similar in appearance to several other members of the family, but can be distinguished by its distinctly hairy inflorescences and discrete, toothed leaflets.

The toxicity of this species has apparently not been well characterized. Steyermark mentioned an anecdotal report in the historical literature (1793) of a boy in Virginia being poisoned by eating a small quantity of the root; however, the identity of the responsible plant is not known for certain. On the other hand, there is a report of A.venenosa roots being used in the Appalachians as a folk remedy for "nervous stomach" and "hysteria" (Mellinger, M. B. "The Spirit Is Strong in the Root," Appalachian Journal, vol. 4, no. 3/4, 1977). There is no doubt that certain other members of the family are lethally toxic, and some also cause contact dermatitis. The plant should therefore be handled with appropriate caution.

Photographs taken at Millstream Gardens Conservation Area, Madison County, MO, 7-28-2013 and 7-4-2017, and Onondaga Cave State Park, Crawford County, MO, 6-25-2014 and 7-31-2014 (SRTurner).