Wild Sarsaparilla

wild sarsaparilla

Wild sarsaparilla, credit: Superior Natural Forest CC BY 2.0

Identification

  • Up to 50 cm in height
  • Leaves pointed at the tip and compound, with three to five leaflets per leaf
  • Flowers small and green or white

Location

  • Moist areas, uplands, usually mature forest stands, often near oak trees

Harvesting Time

  • Late summer through fall

Uses and Related Information

  • Roots can be prepared and cooked like potatoes, or boiled down to make a tea with a mild bite
  • Some people use the roots as poultices for skin problems and tinctures for stomach and joint pain
  • Sarsaparilla roots are a traditional ingredient in root beer

Cautions

  • Do not consume the berries, which have an unpleasant taste and may cause illness
  • Do not confuse sarsaparilla with poison ivy, which has similarly shaped leaves; the stem of poison ivy is non-woody unlike the stem of sarsaparilla

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