Comprehensive DescriptionRead full entry
General: Legume family (Fabaceae). American Licorice is a native perennial legume common to disturbed areas, draws, woods, and depressions over much of temperate North America (Duke, 1981). The plant reproduces by seed and underground stems called rhizomes. Licorice grows 1.5 to 3.5 feet tall (.5 to 1.0-m). The stems are smooth, erect and branched. The leaves are smooth, alternately attached to the stem, and have many (7 to 21) leaflets (odd-pinnate) that are arranged opposite each other along the leaf stem. The flowers are on short stalks and crowded on terminal spikes. Its flowers are yellowish-white and shaped similar to alfalfa flowers. Flowers bloom in June to August and seed matures from July to October. The seed pods are brown, leathery, and ½ to 1.0 inch long (1.25 to 2.54-cm). The pods are covered with many stout, hooked, brown spines which form a bur. This hooked pod assists the plant in dispersal since they stick to animal fur and are moved to new sites. Seeds are green to reddish-brown, smooth and bean shaped.
Distribution: For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.
Habitat: Licorice is found on sites that range from moist to moderately dry, usually in rich soils. This plant can be located along streams, in grasslands, along roadsides and railway right-of-ways in sites that have suffered mild disturbance.