Araliaceae (Ginseng Family)

This family is usually characterized by small flowers in umbels or other types of clusters, with 5 petals and 5 stamens. The sepals are small if not absent altogether. The slightly fleshy fruit develops below where the petals are attached.

Many of the species of Araliaceae are cultivated for their leaves (Hedera helix, or English Ivy and the houseplants of the Aralia genera) or for the medicinal qaulity of the roots of genus Panax, such as the ginsengs of Asia and eastern North America.

The Bay Area has only one native species, Aralia californica (Elk Clover), also found on Montara Mountain.



 Aralia californica:
Elk Clover

Araliaceae (Ginseng Family)

Flowers: White, small; hundreds of 5 petaled flowers in multiple ball-like umbels of branching racemes.

Blooms: June - August

Leaves: Dark green, large compound pinnate leaves, 1 to 3 feet long in total.

Fruit/Seeds: Small (4mm wide), dark seeds.

Location: Moist shaded canyons.

Status: Native - Limited Locally

Aralia californica
(Elk Clover)

- no local picture yet: this link will take you to images of Aralia californica. at the Berkeley Digital Library Project

- no picture yet -

Further description & Comment: 3 to 9 feet tall, very large fleshy stems. In spite of it's size, considered herbaceous because the stems never become woody.

It's not really a clover of any sort at all, but probably picked up the name from the resemblance of its flowers to those of other clovers - I'm not really sure where the elk fits in - it may have been a known forage plant for elk herds, or elk hung out nearby it?


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