American Spikenard

American spikenard is a shrubby spiny herb plant that grows  3-5 feet tall in shady woodland habitats.  The plant is native to The United States and Canada.

The plant has greenish-white flowers in clusters in early summer that attracts bees and bears fruit that is dark purple, red, or black in autumn that will attract birds.

The spikenard is conspicuous chiefly until autumn when its partially opened clusters of fruit are sure to excite anyone that passes the plant.

General Information

Genus:Aralia racemosa
Family:Araliaceae (Ginseng Family)
Life Cycle:Perennial
Origin:Native to the lower 48 states and Canada
Habitat:Shady woodland habitats. 
Bloom Season:Jun , Jul white blooms and purple berries to follow in Wisconsin
Plant Height:3-5 feet tall
Names:American spikenard, life-of-man, spignet, Indian root, man of life,


Berries that have developed in the fall on the plant.


Each has a main stem and two opposite lateral branches. Three to five leaflets, a terminal one
and the others in pairs, grow on each of the stems.

The leaflets are sometimes lobed. They are usually heart-shaped and sharply and doubly toothed. The point is long and sharp, and the base is heart-shaped. The veins on the lower surface are hairy.


The plant has small, greenish, umbrellaed flowers from long terminal spikes or smaller spikes in the leaf axils during the months of July and August.

Along the wooded roadsides, the greenish-white flowers appear about the time that the Goldenrod begins to blossom.


The fruit that follows the flowers is more noticeable than in its period of bloom.

The dark purple, almost black berries are used as food by birds.

Historical Uses

Note: I do not advise on the medicinal uses of herbs. The information provided here is intended to
help educate visitors on previous practices. The information is for historical reference only.

Root: The root is boiled for sores, boils, and carbuncles. {1} It is used externally for wounds, sores, aches, sore eyes, burns, strains, and sprains. {2}

Look for American Spikenard shrubs in shady woodland areas with filtered sunlight light. The flowers bloom early in the summer and lead to spikes of dark red to purple, almost black berries that birds love.

Additional Woodland Plants

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