Regularity: Regularly occurring
Global Range: Aralia californica grows north from Orange County, California, except in the desert and Great Basin regions (Hickman 1993), into the Coast and Cascade Mountains in Southern Oregon (Peck 1961).
Aralia californica is a perennial herb with distribution in the California Floristic Province and southern Oregon; the range is restricted to elevations below 2000 meters. Most common locations of occurrence are moist shady canyons and riparian zones.
* Jepson Manual. 1993. Aralia californica University of California, Berkeley, California, USA
Comments: Moist shade, canyons and stream banks (Hickman 1993). Grows between 1000-3500 feet elevation (Oswald and Ahart 1994).
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure
Reasons: Occurs only in the U.S. in mountainous regions of central and northern California and southern Oregon and only in wetland habitats, such as canyon stream banks and in shaded areas. Aralia californica roots are wild-collected for trade in local herbal markets. It is closely related to other species more widely traded commercially.
Comments: This species requires seepages, streams, creeks and other wetlands for habitat. Therefore, it is vulnerable to ditching, draining, and other activities that alter hydrology. It is also an important erosion control agent for these fragile habitats (Vance et al. in press).
A related species, Aralia racemosa, is commercially traded in the herbal industry (pers. comm., E. Fletcher, December 2000). Aralia californica is also available in the herbal and nutraceutical markets, to a lesser degree, in the form of tinctures and herbal supplements (Vance et al. in press). Therefore, the market for this species and wild populations should be monitored to ensure long-term viability of native plants.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Production Methods: Cultivated, Wild-harvested
Aralia californica, known by the common name elk clover though not actually a clover, is a large herb in the family Araliaceae, the only member of the ginseng family native to California and southwestern Oregon. It is also called California aralia and California spikenard.
It is a deciduous, herbaceous, perennial plant growing to a height of 2–3 m on stems which are thick but not woody. The stems bear large green pinnately compound or tri-pinnately compound leaves 1–2 m long and 1 m broad, the leaflets 15–30 cm long and 7–15 cm broad. The leaflets are arranged opposite with an odd terminal leaflet. The greenish white flowers are produced in large compound racemes of umbels 30–45 cm in diameter at the stem apex; each flower is 2–3 mm in diameter, and matures to small (3–5 mm) dark purple or black fruit, each berry containing 3–5 seeds.
This plant is sometimes substituted for other species of its genus which are used as herbal remedies, such as American spikenard and Japanese spikenard. A preparation of the root has traditionally been used as an anti-inflammatory, douche, and cough suppressant.
- Linda H. Beidleman, Eugene N. Kozloff (2003). Plants of the San Francisco Bay region: Mendocino to Monterey. University of California Press. p. 98. ISBN 978-0-520-23173-3. Retrieved 2011-06-27.
- Chesnut, Victor King (1902). Plants used by the Indians of Mendocino County, California. Government Printing Office. p. 406. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
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