Aralia racemosa - L.
American Spikenard
Other Common Names: American spikenard
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Aralia racemosa L. (TSN 29377)
French Common Names: aralie grappes
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.135208
Element Code: PDARA02050
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Ginseng Family
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Dicotyledoneae Apiales Araliaceae Aralia
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Concept Reference Code: B94KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Aralia racemosa
Taxonomic Comments: Two subspecies of A. racemosa are often recognized (e.g, by Kartesz, 1999): subsp. bicrenata, found in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah; and subsp. racemosa, found in the remainder of the species' extensive range in eastern North America (Kartesz, 1999; USDA-NRCS 1999, Weber and Wittmann 1996a, Weber and Wittmann 1996b). The populations in northern New Mexico are likely A. racemosa subsp. bicrenata.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 13May2016
Global Status Last Changed: 13May2016
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: This species is common in the center of its extensive range in eastern and central North America, and thousands of populations have been documented. However, Aralia racemosa shows some tendency to be intolerant of habitat decline or damage, and information on species abundance is sparse. Although numerous populations are documented in protected areas, threats associated with habitat decline and collection of plants from wild populations for use in the herb trade are likely to increase in the future.
Nation: United States
National Status: N4
Nation: Canada
National Status: N5 (13May2016)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (S1), Arizona (SNR), Arkansas (SNR), Colorado (S1), Connecticut (SNR), Delaware (S3), District of Columbia (SNR), Georgia (S3?), Illinois (SNR), Indiana (SNR), Iowa (S4), Kansas (S1), Kentucky (S4), Maine (SNR), Maryland (S2S4), Massachusetts (SNR), Michigan (SNR), Minnesota (SNR), Mississippi (S1), Missouri (SNR), Nebraska (S1), New Hampshire (SNR), New Jersey (SNR), New Mexico (SNR), New York (SNR), North Carolina (S4), Ohio (SNR), Pennsylvania (S5), Rhode Island (S1), South Carolina (SNR), South Dakota (S3), Tennessee (SNR), Texas (S1), Utah (S1), Vermont (SNR), Virginia (S4S5), West Virginia (S4), Wisconsin (SNR)
Canada Manitoba (S2), New Brunswick (S4S5), Nova Scotia (S4), Ontario (S5), Prince Edward Island (S2), Quebec (S4)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: A. racemosa is found in North America, from eastern Canada south to northern Georgia in the east and south to Utah, New Mexico, and northern Mexico in the west (Gleason and Cronquist 1963, USDA-NRCS 1999). The number of A. racemosa county records declines greatly in the western and southwestern states of this species' range, and the population locus for this species appears to occur roughly at the Great Lakes (USDA-NRCS 1999). This species is found in 10 counties in Arkansas (Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission). It occurs in rich woods throughout southern and central Ontario (Ontario Natural Heritage Information Centre). It is known from all counties in Maine (Maine Natural Areas Program). It is common in eastern Kentucky, becoming infrequent to rare westward (Kentucky Natural Heritage Program). It is widespread throughout Michigan (Michigan Natural Features Inventory) and Missouri (Missouri Department of Conservation). One occurrence of this species is known from Kansas (Kansas Natural Features Inventory). It is scattered throughout the state in Indiana (Indiana Natural Heritage Data Center). Eight occurrences are known from Nebraska (Nebraska Natural Heritage Program). One extant occurrence is recorded for Colorado, but other historical records are known from the east and west slopes where it persists as a disjunct Pleistocene relict (Weber and Wittmann 1996a, Weber and Wittmann 1996b). Sixty populations are reported from Delaware (Delaware Natural Heritage Program). This species occurs in two, possibly three counties in Mississippi (Mississippi Natural Heritage Program). In Manitoba, it occurs sporadically at the southern limit of the boreal forest in aspen-oak parkland, where it is at its northwestern limit (Manitoba Conservation Data Centre).

Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Thousands of populations are extant rangewide. Many hundreds, and probably thousands, of populations are known from Ontario, where it is usually rather local and seldom in large dense populations (Michael Oldham pers. comm.). It is common in eastern Kentucky, becoming infrequent to rare westward (Kentucky Natural Heritage Program). It is common in New York, with hundreds of populations across the state (New York Natural Heritage Program). A single population is reported from Kansas (Kansas Natural Features Inventory). It is widespread around the entire state of Michigan (Michigan Natural Features Inventory). It is reportedly not common in Indiana, and does not form large populations there (Indiana Natural Heritage Data Center). Sixty extant populations are reported from Delaware (Delaware Natural Heritage Program). It is common in Maine, and is reported from all counties in the state (Maine Natural Areas Program). Eight occurrences are known for Nebraska that have been observed since 1970 (Nebraska Natural Heritage Program). Two (possibly three) occurrences with not more than 10 individuals each are known from Mississippi where this species is ranked S1? (Mississippi Natural Heritage Program). One occurrence record is currently on file for Colorado and other historical occurrences are also reported (Weber and Wittmann 1996b). At least 3 occurrences are known from Manitoba (Manitoba Conservation Data Centre). The plant is not rare in New Hampshire (New Hampshire Natural Heritage Inventory).

Population Size Comments: In Ontario this species is usually rather local and seldom in large dense populations (Michael Oldham pers. comm.). Two hundred individuals were estimated to reside in the Colorado population.

Overall Threat Impact Comments: At this time only small amounts are reported to be collected by local herbalists and small herbal tincture companies (Robyn Klein pers. comm.). 500-800 pounds of plant material is reportedly harvested (annually?) for this species from an unspecified area (Ed Fletcher pers. comm.). An individual familiar with the U.S. herbal medicinal industry states that the plant receives minor to moderate use, and estimates trade at 1000 pounds of dry root per year (McGuffin pers. comm.).

No evidence of wild-collection has been reported by Natural Heritage Program botanists. However, some collection is occurring for use in Aralia tinctures that are reportedly being made by local herbal medicine companies (Robyn Klein pers. comm., Ed Fletcher pers. comm.). There are currently no reports that individual populations have been negatively impacted or extirpated due to collection for the plant trade, but as other members of the ginseng family become increasingly rare due to wild harvesting and habitat loss, it is likely that this species will be collected more intensively as a substitute. Small, disjunct populations could be threatened in the future if harvest of wild populations of this species increases.

Aralia racemosa is listed by the United Plant Savers At Risk Forum on their "To Watch" list. This list consists of "herbs which are broadly used in commerce and which, due to over-harvest, loss of habitat, or by the nature of their innate rareness or sensitivity are either at risk or have significantly declined in numbers within their current range" (United Plant Savers 2000).

A. racemosa shows some tendency to be intolerant of habitat decline or damage. Occurrences of this species in the Chicago area tend to be in least-disturbed locations (Swink and Wilhelm 1994). In general, an increasingly small number of natural areas seem to be undamaged by pollution, hydrological alteration, logging, high deer densities, alien species invasion, or changes in fire frequencies; this is a threat to A. racemosa to the extent that it may be degradation-intolerant throughout its range.

Urban and suburban sprawl continue to eliminate forest communities in and around the core of this species' range. Logging is a threat in Manitoba (Manitoba Conservation Data Centre). Cattle grazing and residential development threaten this species in Nebraska (Gerry Steinauer pers. comm.). The small populations in Mississippi are not monitored or protected sufficiently to guarantee their survival (Ronald Wieland pers. comm.).

The life history characteristics of this species do not lend it to cultivation. The plant takes too long to grow and crop yields would probably be very low (Robyn Klein pers. comm.). There is no knowledge of any cultivation of this species (Natural Heritage Programs).

Long-term Trend:  
Long-term Trend Comments: It is likely that A. racemosa populations were diminished during the massive logging of eastern and northeastern forests in the last three centuries, at least because tree cover was lost.

Intrinsic Vulnerability Comments: Aralia racemosa shows some tendency to be intolerant of habitat decline or damage.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: A. racemosa is found in North America, from eastern Canada south to northern Georgia in the east and south to Utah, New Mexico, and northern Mexico in the west (Gleason and Cronquist 1963, USDA-NRCS 1999). The number of A. racemosa county records declines greatly in the western and southwestern states of this species' range, and the population locus for this species appears to occur roughly at the Great Lakes (USDA-NRCS 1999). This species is found in 10 counties in Arkansas (Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission). It occurs in rich woods throughout southern and central Ontario (Ontario Natural Heritage Information Centre). It is known from all counties in Maine (Maine Natural Areas Program). It is common in eastern Kentucky, becoming infrequent to rare westward (Kentucky Natural Heritage Program). It is widespread throughout Michigan (Michigan Natural Features Inventory) and Missouri (Missouri Department of Conservation). One occurrence of this species is known from Kansas (Kansas Natural Features Inventory). It is scattered throughout the state in Indiana (Indiana Natural Heritage Data Center). Eight occurrences are known from Nebraska (Nebraska Natural Heritage Program). One extant occurrence is recorded for Colorado, but other historical records are known from the east and west slopes where it persists as a disjunct Pleistocene relict (Weber and Wittmann 1996a, Weber and Wittmann 1996b). Sixty populations are reported from Delaware (Delaware Natural Heritage Program). This species occurs in two, possibly three counties in Mississippi (Mississippi Natural Heritage Program). In Manitoba, it occurs sporadically at the southern limit of the boreal forest in aspen-oak parkland, where it is at its northwestern limit (Manitoba Conservation Data Centre).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, AR, AZ, CO, CT, DC, DE, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WI, WV
Canada MB, NB, NS, ON, PE, QC

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
AL Etowah (01055), Jackson (01071)
CO La Plata (08067)
DE Kent (10001)
KS Atchison (20005)*, Brown (20013)*, Doniphan (20043)*, Douglas (20045)*, Leavenworth (20103)*
MS Chickasaw (28017), Grenada (28043), Lafayette (28071), Tallahatchie (28135), Tishomingo (28141)*
NE Cherry (31031)*, Dakota (31043), Douglas (31055), Nemaha (31127), Otoe (31131)*, Richardson (31147), Sarpy (31153), Washington (31177)
RI Kent (44003), Providence (44007)
SD Grant (46051), Minnehaha (46099)*, Roberts (46109)
UT Kane (49025)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
01 Blackstone (01090003)+, Narragansett (01090004)+
02 Chester-Sassafras (02060002)+
03 Middle Coosa (03150106)+, Tibbee (03160104)+
06 Guntersville Lake (06030001)+, Pickwick Lake (06030005)+*
07 Upper Minnesota (07020001)+
08 Little Tallahatchie (08030201)+, Tallahatchie (08030202)+, Yalobusha (08030205)+
10 Middle Niobrara (10150004)+*, Lewis and Clark Lake (10170101)+, Lower Big Sioux (10170203)+*, Blackbird-Soldier (10230001)+, Big Papillion-Mosquito (10230006)+, Keg-Weeping Water (10240001)+*, Tarkio-Wolf (10240005)+, Little Nemaha (10240006)+*, Independence-Sugar (10240011)+*, Lower Kansas (10270104)+*, Upper Marais Des Cygnes (10290101)+*
14 Animas (14080104)+
15 Kanab (15010003)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: Aralia racemosa is a very large herb (to 2m tall) of North American forests. Its leaves, being compound, technically grow to nearly 1m in length, though the leaflets (which superficially resemble regular leaves) are toothed and average about 10cm in length. The flowers are small and whitish and are clustered in umbels (Gleason and Cronquist 1963, Great Plains Flora Association 1986).
Habitat Comments: A. racemosa is found mostly in rich woods, often in ravines (Gleason and Cronquist 1963, Great Plains Flora Association 1986). Variants from this general habitat include calcareous rocky ravines and even calcareous swamps in the Chicago region (Swink and Wilhelm 1994), and "crevices in sandstone and on sandy detritus in the shaded defile of Zion Canyon, at about 1220m" in Utah (Welsh et al. 1993). In Indiana, it typically grows on steep slopes in moist forests (Mike Homoya pers. comm.). It is described from rich, usually moist, beech-maple and hemlock-hardwoods, especially along edges and clearings and below bluffs; less often in oak woods; and conifer (mostly cedar) swamps (Phyllis Higman pers. comm.).
Economic Attributes
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Economically Important Genus: Y
Commercial Importance: Minor cash crop
Economic Uses: FOOD, MEDICINE/DRUG
Production Method: Wild-harvested
Economic Comments: The roots of this species have been used for their root beer flavoring, and by Native Americans for numerous medicinal purposes (Great Plains Flora Association 1986, Weiner 1980). This species is collected on a limited basis by local herbalists as a substitute for other members of the ginseng family in herbal tinctures (Robyn Klein pers. comm.). It is used as an ingredient in a tincture for the treatment of asthma (Frontier Co-op 2000). It is also used for rheumatism and various skin conditions, and is considered a tonic and blood purifier. It can also treat chronic lung problems, colds and flu, and digestive weakness (AllHerb.com 2000). It is reported to have much the same medicinal properties as Panax ginseng.

It may be used in other commercial herbal formulas. An internet distributor sells a formula (Echinacea Goldenseal Super Complex) that contains Aralia californica.

Prices for this species were found as follows:

U.S.: $2.00/lb (Ed Fletcher pers. comm.)

U.S., internet: $13.00/lb wild-harvested root

U.S., internet: $3.25/packet of seeds

Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 21Jan2000
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Susan Spackman, David Anderson, and Steve Thomas (1/00); rev. Eric Nielsen (1/00)

Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Wen, J. 2011. Systematics and Biogeography of Aralia L. (Araliaceae): Revision of Aralia Sects. Aralia, Humiles, Nanae, and Sciadodendron. Contributions from the United States National Herbarium 57: 1-172.


  • Deam, C. C. 1940. Flora of Indiana. Division of Forestry, Dept. of Conservation, Indianapolis, Indiana. 1236 pp.

  • Gleason, H.A., and A. Cronquist. 1963. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. D. Van Nostrand Company, New York, NY. 810 pp.

  • Great Plains Flora Association. 1986. Flora of the Great Plains. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS.

  • Great Plains Flora Association. 1986. Flora of the Great Plains. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS. 1402 pp.

  • Great Plains Flora Association. 1986. Flora of the Great Plains. University Press of Kansas. Lawrence, KS. 1392 pp.

  • Great Plains Flora Association. 1986. Flora of the Great Plains. University of Kansas Press, Lawrence. 1392 pp.

  • Harrington, H. D. 1954. Manual of the Plants of Colorado. Sage Books, Denver, CO. 666 pp.

  • Herbarium, Department of Botany, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

  • Herbarium, Museum of Man and Nature, 190 Rupert Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1996. Species distribution data at state and province level for vascular plant taxa of the United States, Canada, and Greenland (accepted records), from unpublished data files at the North Carolina Botanical Garden, December, 1996.

  • Scoggan, H.J. 1957. Flora of Manitoba. National Museum of Canada, Bulletin number 140.

  • Scoggan, H.J. 1978. The Flora of Canada. National Museum of Natural Sciences, National Museum of Canada, Publ. in Botany 7(4).

  • Spence, J.R. 1998. Plant species data dump / maps. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Page, Arizona. 71 pp.

  • Swink, F., and G. Wilhelm. 1994. Plants of the Chicago Region. Morton Arboretum. Lisle, Illinois.

  • Tuhy, J. S. 1985. Field notes - Photocopy.

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. 1999. November 3-last update. The PLANTS database. Online. Available: http://plants.usda.gov/plants. Accessed 2000-Jan.

  • Weber, W. A. and R. C. Wittmann. 2012. Colorado Flora, Eastern Slope, A Field Guide to the Vascular Plants, Fourth Edition. Boulder, Colorado. 555 pp.

  • Weber, W. A. and R. C. Wittmann. 2012. Colorado Flora, Western Slope, A Field Guide to the Vascular Plants, Fourth Edition. Boulder, Colorado. 532 pp.

  • Weber, W.A. 1987. Colorado Flora: Western Slope. Colorado Associated University Press, Boulder, Colorado. 530pp

  • Weber, W.A. and Ronald Wittmann. 1996. Colorado Flora: Western Slope. University Press of Colorado.

  • Weber, W.A., and R.C. Wittmann. 1996a. Colorado flora: Eastern slope. Revised edition. Univ. Press of Colorado, Niwot, Colorado. 524 pp.

  • Weber, W.A., and R.C. Wittmann. 1996b. Colorado flora: Western slope. Univ. Press of Colorado, Niwot, Colorado. 496 pp.

  • Weber, William A. and Ronald C. Wittmann. 1996. Colorado Flora: Eastern Slope.

  • Weiner, M.A. 1980. Earth Medicine Earth Food. Ballantine Books, New York. 230 pp.

  • Weiner, M.A. 1980. Earth Medicine Earth Food. Ballantine Books, New York. 230 pp.

  • Welsh, S. L. 1989. On the distribution of Utah's hanging gardens. Great Basin Naturalist 49(1): 1-30.

  • Welsh, S. L., N. D. Atwood, and J. L. Reveal. 1975 [1976]. Endangered, threatened, extinct, endemic, and rare or restricted Utah vascular plants. Great Basin Naturalist 35(4): 327-376.

  • Welsh, S.L, N.D. Atwood, S. Goodrich, and L.C. Higgins. 1993. A Utah Flora, second edition, revised. Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.

  • Welsh, S.L., N.D. Atwood, S. Goodrich, and L.C. Higgins (eds.) 1993. A Utah flora. 2nd edition. Brigham Young Univ., Provo, Utah. 986 pp.

  • Wieland, Ronald. Quick review of status of Aralia racemosa in Mississippi. Mississippi Natural Heritage Program, Jackson. 2 pp.

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