Regularity: Regularly occurring
Regularity: Regularly occurring
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).
Localities documented in Tropicos sources
Canada (North America)
United States (North America)
Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
- Voss, E. G. 1985. Michigan Flora. Part II Dicots (Saururaceae-Cornaceae). Bull. Cranbrook Inst. Sci. 59. xix + 724. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1700
- Gleason, H. A. 1968. The Choripetalous Dicotyledoneae. vol. 2. 655 pp. In H. A. Gleason Ill. Fl. N. U.S. (ed. 3). New York Botanical Garden, New York. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1704
- Rolfsmeier, S. B., R. Kaul, M. M. Garabrandt & D. M. Sutherland. 1988. New and corrected floristic records for Nebraska. Trans. Nebraska Acad. Sci. 6: 115–121. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/45694
- Radford, A. E., H. E. Ahles & C. R. Bell. 1968. Man. Vasc. Fl. Carolinas i–lxi, 1–1183. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/636
- Correll, D. S. & M. C. Johnston. 1970. Man. Vasc. Pl. Texas i–xv, 1–1881. The University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1493
- Small, J. K. 1933. Man. S.E. Fl. i–xxii, 1–1554. Published by the Author, New York. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1515
- Great Plains Flora Association. 1986. Fl. Great Plains i–vii, 1–1392. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/637
- Fernald, M. 1950. Manual (ed. 8) i–lxiv, 1–1632. American Book Co., New York. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1327
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.).
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
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).
Life History and Behavior
Evolution and Systematics
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Aralia racemosa
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 6
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently 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.
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).
Biological Research Needs: For a better assessment of the conservation status of A. racemosa, basic information should be collected or compiled regarding this species' ability to withstand high deer densities and ability to colonize immature or developing forest communities. Levels of collection in the wild by the medicinal herb industry should be monitored. Locations of the sources of plant material should be documented for this species, and populations should be monitored to assess the sustainability of collection.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Uses: FOOD, MEDICINE/DRUG
Production Methods: Wild-harvested
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
Aralia racemosa (American spikenard, Life-of-man, Petty morel) is an ornamental plant in the Araliaceae family native to the United States and Canada. It is a herbaceous plant, about one to two meters tall, which grows in shady areas. Its native range includes most of the eastern United States.
- Slattery, Britt E., Kathryn Reshetiloff, and Susan M. Zwicker (2003), "Aralia racemosa", Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping: Chesapeake Bay Watershed
- Aralia racemosa L., USDA PLANTS
Names and Taxonomy
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.