Aristolochia serpentaria - L.
Virginia Snakeroot
Other English Common Names: Turpentine-root
Other Common Names: Virginia snakeroot
Synonym(s): Endodeca serpentaria (L.) Raf.
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Aristolochia serpentaria L. (TSN 18342)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.161769
Element Code: PDARI010H0
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Birthwort Family
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Dicotyledoneae Aristolochiales Aristolochiaceae Aristolochia
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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: Aristolochia serpentaria
Taxonomic Comments: This species is highly variable in form; Kartesz (1999) does not recognize subspecies or varieties within it. The halberd-leaved individuals are sometimes recognized as a unique variety (A. serpentaria var. hastata) or sometimes as its own species (A. hastata) (USDA-NRCS 1999).
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G4
Global Status Last Reviewed: 03Jan2000
Global Status Last Changed: 07Feb2000
Rounded Global Status: G4 - Apparently Secure
Reasons: This species has a very broad range and is frequently encountered in a wide variety of wooded habitats across its range. Populations are often small. Furthermore, steady habitat loss and collection pressure may have led to an overall decline in the abundance of this species, with the trend continuing. Very little is known about the life cycle and dispersal of pollen and seeds for Aristolochia. The uncertainty in abundance and trends in population status suggests concern but also the need for further monitoring. Dellinger (pers. comm.) suggests that the taxon as presently understood may represent multiple entities meriting taxonomic recognition.
Nation: United States
National Status: N4

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 (SNR), Arkansas (SNR), Connecticut (S3), Delaware (S3), District of Columbia (SX), Florida (SNR), Georgia (S4), Illinois (S3S4), Indiana (SNR), Iowa (S1), Kansas (SH), Kentucky (S4S5), Louisiana (SNR), Maryland (S4), Michigan (S2), Mississippi (SNR), Missouri (SNR), New Jersey (S3), New York (S2), North Carolina (S4), Ohio (SNR), Oklahoma (S1), Pennsylvania (S4), South Carolina (SNR), Tennessee (SNR), Texas (SNR), Virginia (S5), West Virginia (S4)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: This species grows throughout the Eastern United States (Kartesz, 1999) from Connecticut (Brumback and Mehrhoff 1996) and New York to southern lower Michigan (Penskar pers. comm.), southeast Iowa (Pearson pers. comm.); south to Texas and Florida (USDA-NRCS 1999). Found throughout South Carolina (Pittman pers. comm.); throughout Indiana (Homoya pers. comm.).

Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Likely several thousand populations rangewide. Alabama: >100; Connecticut: 6; Iowa: >6; Illinois: thousands; Maryland: >75; Michigan: >17; North Carolina: about 25 on USFS land (Kauffman pers. comm.); New York: 3; Pennsylvania: hundreds; South Carolina: hundreds; Tennessee: 46+ (Brumback and Mehrhoff 1996, APSU 1999).

This species is obscure and easily overlooked -- probably more occurrences could be found throughout its range (Pearson pers. comm., Penskar pers. comm.); routinely seen throughout Indiana (Homoya pers. comm.). Since this is such a common species throughout much of its range, these numbers can only be estimates. Additional information on species distribution and the number of populations can be gleaned from county occurrence dot maps (USDA-NRCS 1999).

Population Size Comments: This species has very low population density, typically one or two dozen individual stems, rarely to 100 or more (Dellinger pers. comm., Kauffman pers. comm., Kunsman pers. comm., Penskar pers. comm., Pittillo pers. comm., Schafale pers. comm., Schotz pers. comm.); about 100 plants for two large populations in New York (Young pers. comm.).

Overall Threat Impact Comments: Information from reliable sources indicates that the species is collected from the wild throughout its range, at very low levels; Corbin (pers. comm.) indicates that he has heard that much of the collection is centered in rural Kentucky; also collection permits were given out until last year for collection from Hoosier National Forest in Indiana --this species was the 4th most-collected medicinal herb there until all permits were cancelled recently (Jacquart pers. comm.); Suggs (pers. comm.) reports that he has observed intensive collection at sites in North Carolina.

There is presently only a very small market for this species, primarily by alternative medicine practitioners (Blakley pers. comm.). This species is difficult to work with because of its toxicity, which is likely inhibiting its use on a more widespread level (Blakley pers. comm.). At present, its American market is restricted to low levels, primarily as an ingredient in some tonics (Hardy pers. comm.). Apparently, this species is being actively sought on the Chinese and Korean black market, where it gets prices between $15-30 per pound (dry weight; Corbin pers. comm.). Wildcrafters and tradesmen are very quiet and proprietary about how much is collected and where (Suggs pers. comm., Penskar pers. comm., Corbin pers. comm.), so information on amounts is very difficult to come by. Most or all material on the market is from wildcrafted sources (Blakley pers. comm., Fletcher pers. comm.).

This species is not cultivated for the medicinal market (Blakley pers. comm.). As with many other forest herb species, it is probably cultivated at very small scale levels for regional native plant ornamental markets.

A person knowledgable about the herbal medicinal trade says that the plant receives minor use, on the order of 1000 pounds of dry root per year (M. McGuffin pers. comm.).

As with all native forest herbs, habitat conversion and urban/rural development are significant direct threats (Homoya pers. comm., Pittman pers. comm., Kunsman pers. comm., Pearson pers. comm., Frye pers. comm.). Equally significant threats include habitat fragmentation and displacement by exotic species (Homoya pers. comm., Penskar pers. comm., Frye pers. comm., Enser pers. comm.). Locally, limestone quarrying is one of the development pressures on this species given its affinity for limestone substrate (Kunsman pers. comm.).

Short-term Trend Comments: Global trend unknown (Young pers. comm., Pearson pers. comm., Dellinger pers. comm., Kauffman pers. comm., Penskar pers. comm.). This species may be stable in parts of its range (Kunsman pers. comm., Schotz pers. comm.). Monitoring would be necessary in order to determine whether species is stable or declining.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: This species grows throughout the Eastern United States (Kartesz, 1999) from Connecticut (Brumback and Mehrhoff 1996) and New York to southern lower Michigan (Penskar pers. comm.), southeast Iowa (Pearson pers. comm.); south to Texas and Florida (USDA-NRCS 1999). Found throughout South Carolina (Pittman pers. comm.); throughout Indiana (Homoya pers. comm.).

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, CT, DCextirpated, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, MI, MO, MS, NC, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, WV

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CT Fairfield (09001), Litchfield (09005), Middlesex (09007), New Haven (09009), New London (09011)
DE Sussex (10005)
IA Des Moines (19057), Henry (19087), Lee (19111), Muscatine (19139)*
IL Alexander (17003)*, Johnson (17087), Massac (17127), Pulaski (17153), Saline (17165)*, Union (17181)
MI Berrien (26021), Branch (26023), Cass (26027), Kent (26081), Lenawee (26091), St. Joseph (26149), Van Buren (26159)*, Washtenaw (26161), Wayne (26163)
NJ Hunterdon (34019), Mercer (34021), Morris (34027), Ocean (34029), Salem (34033), Somerset (34035), Sussex (34037), Warren (34041)
NY Bronx (36005)*, Nassau (36059)*, New York (36061)*, Orange (36071), Queens (36081)*, Richmond (36085)*, Rockland (36087), Ulster (36111), Westchester (36119)*
OK Le Flore (40079)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
01 Lower Connecticut (01080205)+, Quinnipiac (01100004)+, Housatonic (01100005)+, Saugatuck (01100006)+*
02 Rondout (02020007)+, Hudson-Wappinger (02020008)+, Lower Hudson (02030101)+*, Bronx (02030102)+*, Hackensack-Passaic (02030103)+, Sandy Hook-Staten Island (02030104)+*, Raritan (02030105)+, Northern Long Island (02030201)+*, Southern Long Island (02030202)+*, Middle Delaware-Mongaup-Brodhead (02040104)+, Middle Delaware-Musconetcong (02040105)+, Crosswicks-Neshaminy (02040201)+, Cohansey-Maurice (02040206)+, Broadkill-Smyrna (02040207)+
04 St. Joseph (04050001)+, Thornapple (04050007)+, Detroit (04090004)+*, Huron (04090005)+, Raisin (04100002)+, Tiffin (04100006)+
05 Saline (05140204)+*, Lower Ohio (05140206)+
07 Copperas-Duck (07080101)+*, Skunk (07080107)+, Lower Cedar (07080206)+*, Lower Des Moines (07100009)+, Upper Mississippi-Cape Girardeau (07140105)+, Cache (07140108)+
11 Kiamichi (11140105)+, Mountain Fork (11140108)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: Perennial herb with leaves along the stem; stems erect to occasionally creeping, to 40 cm; flowers rarely seen; aromatic roots; flowers are green to purplish-brown.
Habitat Comments: This species is found in a wide variety of forested habitat conditions throughout its range, from rich, mesic forests to subxeric woods and clearings (Young pers. comm., Pearson pers. comm., Kunsman pers. comm.). In the core of its range, the species is most frequently found and most abundant in association with limestone (Kunsman pers. comm.), whereas toward the southern and southeastern edge of its range in the piedmont and coastal plain, it is found over other, non-basic substrates (Schafale pers. comm., Schotz pers. comm.). It is frequently encountered on rocky slopes and near summits in oak-hickory or other hardwood forests (Kunsman pers. comm., Penskar pers. comm., Pittman pers. comm., Pittillo pers. comm.). In Alabama it is often associated with Pinus echinata and Cornus florida (Schotz pers. comm.). It is rare in high-nutrient rich coves, at mid- to low elevations in the mountains and foothills of North Carolina (Kauffman pers. comm.).
Economic Attributes
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Economic Uses: MEDICINE/DRUG
Production Method: Wild-harvested
Economic Comments: Prices for this species were found as follows:

Southeast U.S., black market: $15-30/lb (dry)

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: 03Jan2000
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: John R. Boetsch (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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  • APSU Center for Field Biology and University of Tennessee Herbarium. 1999. October 6-last update. Atlas of Tennessee Vascular Plants. Online. Available: http://www.bio.utk.edu/botany/herbarium/vascular/atlas.html. Accessed 2000-Jan.

  • Brumback, W.E., and L.J. Mehrhoff. 1996. Flora Conservanda: New England. The New England Plant Conservation Program list of plants in need of conservation. Rhodora 98 (895): 235-361.

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

  • Fernald, M.L. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. 8th edition. D. Van Nostrand, New York. 1632 pp.

  • Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 1997. Flora of North America north of Mexico. Vol. 3. Magnoliophyta: Magnoliidae and Hamamelidae. Oxford Univ. Press, New York. xxiii + 590 pp.

  • Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 1997. Flora of North America, North of Mexico. Volume 3. Magnoliophyta: Magnoliidae and Hamamelidae.

  • Gleason, Henry A. and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. 910 pp.

  • Holmgren, Noel. 1998. The Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. Illustrations of the Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

  • Huber, H. 1993. Aristolochiaceae. Pages 129-137 in K. Kubitzki, J. Rohwer, and V. Bittrich (editors), The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants. Volume II. Springer, Berlin, Germany.

  • 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.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1999. A synonymized checklist and atlas with biological attributes for the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. First edition. In: Kartesz, J.T., and C.A. Meacham. Synthesis of the North American Flora, Version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, N.C.

  • Mitchell, Richard S. and Ernest O. Beal. 1979. Magnoliaceae to Ceratophyllaceae of New York State. New York State Museum Bulletin 435, 62 pp.

  • Mitchell, Richard S. and Gordon C. Tucker. 1997. Revised Checklist of New York State Plants. Contributions to a Flora of New York State. Checklist IV. Bulletin No. 490. New York State Museum. Albany, NY. 400 pp.

  • Mitchell, Richard. 1994. Virginia snakeroot (Aristolochia serpentaria) rediscovered in New York. NY Flora Association Newsletter 5(4): 1-2.

  • Moye, William S. 2006. Highly Ranked Plants of the South Mountain Region. Unpublished notes sent via email to Misty Franklin in February 2006.

  • New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Enviromental Conservation. March 1998. Element Occurrence Record Database. Latham, NY.

  • Reschke, Carol. 1990. Ecological communities of New York State. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Latham, NY. 96 pp. plus xi.

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

  • 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.

  • Weakley, A.S. 2011. Flora of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States. Working draft of 25 May 2011. University of North Carolina Herbarium (NCU), NC Botanical Garden, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

  • Weldy, T. and D. Werier. 2010. New York flora atlas. [S.M. Landry, K.N. Campbell, and L.D. Mabe (original application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research http://www.fccdr.usf.edu/. University of South Florida http://www.usf.edu/]. New York Flora Association http://wwws.nyflora.org/, Albany, New York

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