Sanicula canadensis (Canadian Black Snakeroot)

Plant Info
Also known as: Canada Sanicle, Short-style Sanicle
Family:Apiaceae (Carrot)
Life cycle:biennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; deciduous woods, disturbed areas, mesic forests
Bloom season:June - July
Plant height:1 to 4 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: indistinct Cluster type: panicle Cluster type: round

[photo of flowers] Small clusters (umbels) at the end of branching stems, made up of 1 to 4 smaller round clusters (umbellets) about ½ inch across, with up to 8 flowers per umbellet. Flowers are either male or perfect (both male and female parts) and both are usually present in an umbellet. An umbellet has up to 5 male flowers and 2 or 3 perfect, all tiny with 5 greenish white petals and inconspicuous stamens. The calyx surrounding a flower has 5 narrow lobes slightly longer than the petals. Male flowers are short stalked, the stalk usually less than twice as long as the calyx and rarely rises above the perfect flowers. Perfect flowers are very short stalked (1 mm or less), have a prominent ovary covered in rows of hooked bristles, an inconspicuous style that is shorter than the bristles, and the calyx is also shorter than the bristles.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: palmate

[photo of leaves] Leaves are alternate and palmately compound with 3 leaflets, the lateral pair often cleft so it appears as 5 leaflets, and which may have 1 or 2 additional shallow lobes. Leaflets are hairless and coarsely toothed, are generally up to 3 inches long and to 1½ inches wide, though may be larger, and often have a stretched diamond-like shape, usually widest above the middle.

[photo of upper leaves] Lower leaves are long stalked; leaves near the flowers are often deeply lobed but not compound, and becoming short stalked. Stems are erect, hairless, grooved, and branching in the upper plant.

Fruit: Fruit type: barbed Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is short-stalked, dry and round, 3 to 5 mm (1/8 to ¼ inch) long, and covered in rows of hooked bristles. The calyx persists and forms a beak at the tip that is shorter than the bristles. The fruit splits into 2 seeds.


Two varieties of S. canadensis occur in Minnesota: var. canadensis and var. grandis. A key difference is the larger leaves of var. grandis, which has leaflets more than 3 inches long and 1½ inches wide. There are 3 additional Sanicula species in Minnesota, all with similar "pom-pom" like flower heads and palmately compound leaves. The flowers of Canadian Black Snakeroot are less conspicuous than either Maryland Black Snakeroot (Sanicula marilandica) or Clustered Black Snakeroot (Sanicula odorata), both of which have long styles and/or stamens, and 20 or more flowers per umbellet. Maryland Black Snakeroot has leaves with 5 to 7 leaflets, and Clustered Black Snakeroot has leaves more consistently with 5 leaflets. The fourth species, Beaked Snakeroot (Sanicula trifoliata), is rare in Minnesota, has male flowers on long stalks that rise well above the perfect flowers, and oval fruits 6 to 8 mm (¼ to 1/3 inch) long.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Andy - Minneapolis
on: 2022-08-21 09:23:28

Last Fall, I planted beak grass (diarrhena obovata) under an elm tree--and this summer there's almost more snakeroot than beak grass under that elm. Given how much sprang up and that it's recently disturbed soil, my guess is that it's Canadian black snakeroot rather than beaked snakeroot. I'll check the flower stalks next summer though to make sure. In any event, it really likes shade and looks good with the beak grass.

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