Black Snakeroot or Maryland Sanicle, Sanicula marilandica
Apiaceae or Parsley Family

Medium-sized plant, a few feet tall. Basal leaves, with five to seven leaflets arranged like the fingers of a hand (palmately) at the end of a long stalk. Each leaflet coarsely toothed. Upper leaves similar, but stalkless. Flowers in small clusters of clusters, the smallest cluster being called an umbellet. Umbellets are of two kinds. One kind has three perfect flowers, that is flowers that have both male and female parts, and a small number of flowers with male parts only (called staminate, since male parts are stamens). The other kind of umbellet has only staminate flowers. The umbellet shown from the top and the side in the lower row is all male. The umbellet in focus and the one behind it in the picture at left are mixed. The perfect flowers have a bristly ovary at the base, and two long female parts called styles that are longer than the bristles and stick way out, as seen in the back umbellet at left. Flower have sharply pointed, narrow triangular green sepals and white to greenish white petals. The stamens are yellow, turning brown with age. The perfect flowers develop into round fruits covered with hooked bristles and having the two styles persisting on top and curving backward, as seen in the background at left. The staminate flowers lose their stamens and petals and persist only as sepals. The remnants of the staminate flowers are about as long or longer than the fruits.

A native of most of southern Canada, the eastern US, the northern tier of US states, and the US Rockies. It is said to be a plant of moist forests, but in Wildwood it seems to prefer forest edges, as along the Grand Staircase.

The palmately three-to-seven-parted leaves with their lobes and teeth and the small flowers in clusters of clusters make snakeroots or sanicles fairly easy to recognize. However, there appear to be at least three species in Wildwood. Key characters in Black Snakeroot are the white or greenish flowers, the styles that stick way out and persist on the fruit, the male flower remnants about as long or longer than the fruit, and the pointed triangular sepals. Clustered Snakeroot (S. odorata), like Black Snakeroot has styles that stick way out and curve back; however, it has yellow petals, rounded sepals and male flower remnants shorter than the fruits. The third species, (probably Canada Snakeroot, S. canadensis) does not have long, curved back styles.

     

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