Sanicula odorata (Clustered Black Snakeroot)

Plant Info
Also known as: Gregarious Black Snakeroot, Fragrant Sanicle, Common Black Snakeroot
Family:Apiaceae (Carrot)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; deciduous woods, mesic forests
Bloom season:June - July
Plant height:1 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
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: 5-petals Cluster type: panicle Cluster type: round

[photo of flowers] Small clusters (umbels) at the ends of branching stems, made up of 1 to several small round clusters (umbellets) about ½ inch across and consisting of 20 to 60 flowers each. Flowers are either male or perfect (both male and female parts), with both present in an umbellet. Flowers are dull yellow to greenish yellow with 5 petals much longer than the sepals, and protruding stamens with yellow tips that turn brown with age.

[photo of flower styles] Perfect flowers are nearly stalkless, have a small ovary covered in short bristles, and 2 long spreading styles that are much longer than the bristles. The styles persist and become arching in fruit.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are palmately compound, mostly with 5 leaflets or 3 in the upper plant, generally alternately attached, but can be opposite or basal. Leaflets are up to 2 inches long and to 1 inch wide, coarsely toothed, hairless, elliptical to triangular shape and usually widest above the middle, often with notches or shallow lobes on the tip half. Lower and basal leaves are long stalked, becoming stalkless or nearly so in the upper plant. Stems are single or multiple from the base, erect, hairless, and branched in the upper plant.

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

[photo of fruit] Fruit is round, dry, less than ¼ inch long and covered in short, hooked bristles, the remains of the style usually persisting and arched. The fruit splits into 2 seeds.


This species often goes by Sanicula gregaria. There are 4 Sanicula species in Minnesota, all with similar "pom-pom" like flower heads and palmately compound leaves. The flowers of Clustered Black Snakeroot are distinctly yellowish compared to the others, which are all greenish or creamy white. When fruiting, the shorter bristles and long curved style distinguish it from Canadian Black Snakeroot (Sanicula canadensis), which also has its lower leaves compound in 3s, though deeply cleft to look like 5. Maryland Black Snakeroot (Sanicula marilandica) has leaves with 5 to 7 leaflets. The fourth species, Beaked Snakeroot (Sanicula trifoliata), is rare in Minnesota, has male flowers on relatively long stalks, and fruits about 1/3 inch long.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Wild River State Park, Chisago County, Spring Lake Park Reserve, Dakota County, and Richard T. Anderson Conservation Area, Hennepin County.


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

Posted by: Ann Luloff - Todd County
on: 2020-06-06 16:43:08

I found this plant growing in large numbers along a recently cleared trail in the Elgin Woods WMA.

Posted by: Gene Danneman - Otter Tail County, Eagle Lake Township
on: 2020-07-06 18:46:19

Found a single plant growing in underbrush of large sumac bushes while I was developing a trail on our lake shore property.

Posted by: Jayne - Iowa
on: 2021-06-20 12:37:20

Found this growing under a large Mock Orange bush. I live in western Iowa.

Posted by: Tom Merchant - SW - Westbrook
on: 2022-07-15 20:56:51

I noticed this under a black walnut tree in my back yard. Near as I can tell it appears like a Clustered Snake Root. It had over run several hostas, one was completely covered. I don't recall seeing it before.I pulled out about fifty clusters by the roots. I will certainly watch out for it in the future! I believe it is bi-annual so should not see it for a couple years.

Posted by: Amy - Stwtr
on: 2023-05-24 07:01:13

Should this plant be pulled ? It seems to be very invasive , taking over the area of other plants with determination and speed ? Thank you

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-05-24 07:22:36

Amy, many native species can be aggressive in cultivation. The natives are some of the worst weeds in my own garden, so just because it's native doesn't mean it's desirable. :-) If it's in a natural area, I would leave it alone. If it's in a garden, it's your choice.

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