Sanicula odorata (Raf.) Pryer & Phillippe

Black Snakeroot


CC = 2
CW = 3
MOC = 76

© SRTurner

Family - Apiaceae

Habit - Perennial forb with relatively slender, fibrous roots.

Stems - Loosely ascending, to 80 cm, sometimes multiple from the base, often branching, glabrous, slightly scented.

Sanicula_odorata_stem.jpg Stem and leaf base.

© SRTurner

Leaves - Alternate and basal. Basal leaves long petiolate, the petioles to 15 cm long, glabrous. Blades 2-12 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. Inflorescences terminal and usually also axillary, compound umbels, these often grouped into loose clusters or small panicles, short-to more commonly longstalked, the branch points with pairs of leaflike bracts.

Sanicula_odorata_leaf1.jpg Leaf / bract adaxial.

© SRTurner

Sanicula_odorata_leaf2.jpg Leaf / bract abaxial.

© SRTurner


© DETenaglia

Inflorescences - Axillary bracteate globose umbellets, of staminate and perfect flowers. Involucre of 2 bracts 8-40 mm long, these leaflike, usually 3-lobed. Rays 2 or 3, 1-6 cm long, usually unequal in length, loosely ascending or spreading. Umbellets with a mixture of staminate and pistillate flowers or more commonly some of the umbellets all staminate, the staminate flowers mostly 12-25 per umbellet, the pistillate flowers 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_odorata_inflorescence.jpg Inflorescence.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Sepals minute scales 0.4-0.7 mm long, fused in the basal third, triangular, with the tip narrowed to a short, usually blunt point. Petals yellowish green, longer than the sepals. Stamens with the anthers yellow. Styles noticeably longer than the bristles of the fruit, up to twice as long as the sepals. Stamens 5, erect. Filaments greenish, glabrous, 2 mm long. Anthers yellow, 0.7 mm long. Styles 2, long and arched, greenish-white, glabrous. Ovary with hooked bristles.

Fruits - Schizocarps 3-5 mm long, the stalks 0.5-1.0 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.

Sanicula_odorata_flowers.jpg Flowers.

© SRTurner

Sanicula_odorata_flowers2.jpg Flowers.

© SRTurner

Sanicula_odorata_fruits.jpg Fruits. Arrows shows recurved styles.

© DETenaglia

Flowering - April - June.

Habitat - Bottomland and mesic forests, streambanks.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - S. canadensis.

Other info. - This common species can be found in forests throughout most of Missouri, as well as across most of the eastern half of the continental U.S. The plant can be identified by general appearance and its bristly fruits. It differs from its lookalike S. canadensis in having long, arching styles longer than the bristles on the ovaries. Additionally, there are more staminate flowers per umbellet than in S. canadensis, and when fresh the tiny flowers are yellow rather than white.

Photographs taken at Weston Bend State Park, Platte County, MO., 5-7-01, and at Big Spring Park, MO., 7-8-04 (DETenaglia); also at Shaw Nature Reserve, 5-7-2007 and 5-3-2021, and Bohigian Conservation Area, Phelps County, MO, 6-3-2021 (SRTurner).