Clustered Snakeroot or Clustered Sanicle, Sanicula odorata
Apiaceae or Parsley Family
Called Sanicula gregaria in some guidebooks


Medium-sized plant, a few feet tall. Basal leaves, with five to seven leaflets arranged like the fingers of a hand (palmately). Each leaflet with several lobes and each lobe coarsely toothed. Upper leaves similar, but may have only three lobes. 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. In the picture at lowest left there is an all-staminate umbellet on the right, and a mixed umbellet on the left. 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. Flower have rounded triangular green sepals and yellow petals. The stamens are yellow (lowest row, center), turning brown with age (lowest, left). The perfect flowers develop into round fruits covered with hooked bristles and having the two styles persisting on top, as seen in the lowest row right. The staminate flowers lose their stamens and petals and persist only as sepals, as seen lowest right. The remnants of the staminate flowers are shorter than the fruits.

A native of most of eastern North America as far west as Texas to North Dakota. It likes shady, moist forests. In Wildwood, there is a concentration near the two small foot bridges on the Westside Trail (see picture at left), but is also found elsewhere.

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. To definitively identify the species, you will need a hand lens. Key characters for Clustered Snakeroot are the yellow flowers, the styles that stick way out and persist on the fruit, the male flower remnants smaller than the fruit, and the rounded triangular sepals. Black Snakeroot (S. marilandica) also has styles that stick out and curve back in fruit, but it has white flowers, pointed sepals, and male flower remnants as long or longer thant the fruits. The third species (probably S. canadensis, Canada Snakeroot) does not have long curved-back styles.

Plants in flower
Basal Leaf Flowers
Plants in flower from above
Flowers Flowers Fruits

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