Spikenard: A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information on spikenard

Aralia racemosa, or spikenard as it is commonly called, is an ornamental plant in the Araliaceae family.

Spikenard's freely branching, dark maroon to near black stems are glabrous (smooth: free from down) and rise from large aromatic roots. The plant can reach heights of 3 to 5 feet—and infrequently as high as 10 feet.

The stems bear a only a few 2-3 pinnate compound leaves that are very large (up to 2 1/2 feet long), and each of which is divided and subdivided into numerous coarse oval-rounded leaflets—roughly 9-21, each being 2-6 inches in length—with toothed margins, cordate bases and pointed tips.

Numerous umbels of tiny greenish-white flowers are produced in long upright terminal (but sometimes axillary) panicles, each to 12-18 inches in length. Spikenard blooms in the early to mid-summer months (June to August). Flowers are followed by dense hanging clusters of drupes (with 1/4 inch diameters) which are basically inedible berries. These mature to dark purple.

common names & nomenclature
The plant's specific epithet is from the Latin word racemosus which means "flowers in racemes".

Also known as:
spikenard, american spikenard, indian nard, life-of-man, pettymorrel, spiceberry, spignet, spikenard, syrian nard, fleabane, ld man's root, muskroot, pigeon weed, nardin

Spikenard, the herb with a sweet taste and woodsy scent
Spikenard: Where in the World
habitat and range for spikenard

Aralia racemosa is native to the United States and Canada.

Spikenard: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting spikenard

Spikenard is typically located on wooded slopes and ravines, shaded moist ledges, and bluffs in sun to part shade.

Spikenard prefers average, medium moisture, well-drained woodland soils.

Sow seeds as soon as they are ripe in a cold frame. Stored seed will require from 3-5 months of cold stratification. Germination usually takes place within 1-4 months at 20°C. When large enough to handle, prick out the seedlings into individual pots and grow them on in light shade in a greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant out in the garden in early spring or summer.

The root is collected in late summer and the autumn and dried for later use.

Dried spikenard root pieces should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.