Wild sarsaparilla, Aralia nudicaulis, is a plant that grows wild in wooded areas in many eastern states of North America. The root of the plant is used for both its medicinal value in alternative medicine and for making the drink sarsaparilla. Sarsaparilla has a slight liquorice flavour and the drink has evolved into the more common root beer of today. Sarsaparilla, a member of the ginseng family, is easy to grow from seed or from cuttings.
Harvest the seed from the spent flower heads in late July or early August.
Rake organic matter, such as leaves and twigs, away from the area you want to plant.
Scatter the collected seed by broadcasting thinly over the bare ground. Cover the seed with the removed organic matter.
Water the area until the soil beneath the organic matter is moist to the touch.
Harvest the root the following fall.
Cut the stems of the sarsaparilla plant 1 to 2 inches above the ground.
Place the cut end of the stem into rooting hormone and twist until the lower inch of the stem is covered.
Place the stem in a glass jar filled with water. Roots should begin to appear within a week. Allow the roots to reach 1 inch long.
Transplant the cuttings 1 inch deep into prepared soil.
Harvest the root in the fall after the plant has flowered and reseeded itself.
- Mountain State University: The Herbal Dispatch (PDF)
- Wellesley University: Wild Sarsaparilla
- "Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening"' the Editors of Organic Gardening and Farming Magazine; 1975, 1992, 2009
- Roots of wild sarsaparilla will continue to grow year after year. The longer you leave the roots in the ground, the larger the roots will become.
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