Aralia hispidia – Bristly Sarsaparilla

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Bristly sarsaparilla (Aralia hispidia) is a native perennial in the ginseng family. It has been historically used as a medicinal herb.
Bristly sarsaparilla can be found on cliffs, forest edges, and meadows. It prefers full sun and sandy soil.
The plant has stiff hairs on its stem that are not strong enough to puncture the skin. Leaves are compound with serrated margins. Flowers grow in a nearby round umbel. The inedible fruit are smooth and dark purplish black.
Tender shoots in late spring have been peeled and used as a vegetable. They can be consumed raw or cooked. The bark and root have been used medicinally as both a stimulant and relaxant. The roots can be used to make a tea or root beer substitute.
Being a rare and native plant, Bristly sarsaparilla may be best admired rather than foraged.

Written by Amy Demers, founder of the Connecticut Foraging Club. To learn more about foraging in Connecticut, check out our upcoming classes.

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