Black Snakeroot in Winter

by Carl Strang

Black snakeroots are woodland members of the carrot family Umbelliferae that are common in northeast Illinois but easily can be overlooked because of their inconspicuous flowers.

Here is one in bloom. The species are similar, and my tentative identification of this one is the Canada black snakeroot, Sanicula canadensis.

Here is one in bloom. The species are similar, and my tentative identification of this one is the Canada black snakeroot, Sanicula canadensis.

As it happens, the winter form of this plant likewise does not stand out so much from other woodland species, for instance the white avens, which also produces bur-like fruit clusters.

Black snakeroot plants in winter. Don’t exactly jump out at you, do they?

Black snakeroot plants in winter. Don’t exactly jump out at you, do they?

Up close, though, the umbels of fruit clusters have an appealing form. They are smaller, rounder and tighter than in the avens.

The hooked bristles are much like those of other plants which latch on to passers-by for dispersal.

The hooked bristles are much like those of other plants which latch on to passers-by for dispersal.

Some leaves persist, at least into mid-January when these photos were taken.

When intact and spread out, the leaves are palmately lobed or divided.

When intact and spread out, the leaves are palmately lobed or divided.

I found signs that birds have some interest in the seeds.

That interest seemed limited, though, as the birds only took advantage of plants bent close to the ground. Those still erect were left alone.

That interest seemed limited, though, as the birds only took advantage of plants bent close to the ground. Those still erect were left alone.

 

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