Sanicula canadensis L.

Black Snakeroot


CC = 3
CW = 3
MOC = 85

© SRTurner

Family - Apiaceae

Habit - Biennial forb with fibrous roots.

Stems - Loosely ascending to erect, usually branched, glabrous.

Sanicula_canadensis_stem.jpg Stem and node.

© SRTurner

Leaves - Basal and alternate, the uppermost sometimes appearing opposite, the basal and lower ones long-petiolate, the median and upper leaves short-petiolate to sessile, glabrous, the sheathing bases only slightly inflated. Leaf blades 1.5-14 cm long, broadly triangular to ovate or nearly circular in outline, deeply palmately 3- or 5-lobed and/or compound, the lobes or leaflets elliptic-lanceolate to obovate in outline, narrowed or tapered to bluntly or sharply pointed tips, tapered at the base, those of the lower leaves often irregularly few-lobed, the margins sharply and doubly toothed, the teeth often with light-colored, slender, spiny tips.

Sanicula_canadensis_leaves.jpg Leaves/bracts.

© SRTurner

Sanicula_canadensis_leaf1.jpg Leaf adaxial.

© SRTurner

Sanicula_canadensis_leaf2.jpg Leaf abaxial.

© SRTurner

Sanicula_canadensis_sheath.jpg Leaf base.

© SRTurner

Inflorescences - Terminal and usually also axillary, compound umbels, these often grouped into loose clusters, usually long-stalked, the branch points with pairs of leaflike bracts. Involucre usually of 2 bracts, these leaflike, usually 3-lobed. Rays 2 or 3, usually unequal in length, 0.2-3.0 cm long, loosely ascending or spreading. Umbellets with a mixture of longer-stalked staminate flowers, these 1-7 per umbellet, and shorter-stalked or sessile perfect flowers, these usually 3 per umbellet. Involucel of 3-9 bractlets, these minute, shorter than to longer than the flower stalks, lanceolate to ovate-triangular, the margins entire or less commonly few-toothed.

Sanicula_canadensis_inflorescence1.jpg Inflorescence.

© SRTurner


© SRTurner

Flowers - Sepals 0.4-1.1 mm long, fused only at the base, narrowly lanceolate, with the tip tapered to a sharp point. Petals oblanceolate to ovate, tapered abruptly to a short, slender tip, greenish white, usually shorter than the sepals. Ovaries densely pubescent with hooked bristles. Stamens with the anthers white. Styles shorter than the bristles of the fruit, shorter than to about as long as the sepals.

Sanicula_canadensis_flowers.jpg Flowers.

© SRTurner

Fruits - Schizocarps 2-5 mm long, oblong-ovate to nearly circular in outline, somewhat flattened laterally, densely pubescent with hooked bristles, these with expanded, somewhat inflated bases, the mericarps lacking ribs, the stalks 1.0-1.5 mm long.

Sanicula_canadensis_fruits.jpg Fruits.

Arrows point to remnants of staminate flowers, of which there are only a few per umbellet.

© SRTurner

Flowering - May - July.

Habitat - Forests, acid seeps, streambanks, margins of prairies and glades, shaded areas.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - S. odorata, Cryptotaenia canadensis.

Other info. - This inconspicuous species is common throughout Missouri and the eastern half of the continental U.S., and also occurs in Canada. It is usually found in shaded forest areas.

Sanicle is generically recognized by its branched habit, deeply lobed leaves, and ovaries and fruits covered with hooked bristles. The fruits can be a nuisance to hikers in the fall, covering articles of clothing with small burs. This species looks very similar to its sibling, S. odorata. When flowering, Sanicula canadensis can be distinguished by its white petals (those of S. odorata are yellow). It also has only a few staminate flowers per umbellet (S. odorata has many), and short styles (those of S. odorata are long and arching). All of these characters are tiny and require close examination.

Photographs taken at Onondaga Cave State Park, Crawford County, MO, 06-12-2014, and along the Katy Trail near Dutzow, Warren County, MO, 6-6-2021 (SRTurner).