Canadian black snakeroot

(Sanicula canadensis)

Canadian black snakeroot (var. canadensis)

Canadian black snakeroot is an herbaceous perennial plant in the family Apiaceae. It occurs in the United States and southern Canada east of the Great Plains. It is typically found in wooded areas, along stream banks, and in other moist habitats, although it can also tolerate some dryness.

It serves as a host for the larvae of some butterfly species, including the black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes).


It was historically used by Native Americans for a variety of medicinal purposes, including as a diuretic, a digestive aid, and a treatment for snake bites.


The leaves are alternate and palmately compound, with 3 to 5 leaflets. The leaflets are ovate to oblong, coarsely toothed, and up to 7 cm long and 5 cm wide. The number of leaflets on the basal and lower stem leaves of all black snakeroots (Sanicula spp.) is an important identifying feature. However, the lateral leaflets are often deeply lobed, sometimes to the base, appearing to be two separate leaflets.

The stem is erect, hairy, and can grow up to 1 m tall. It is usually branched at the top and has purple spots on it.

The flowers are small and greenish-white, arranged in small clusters on the tips of the stems and branches. The inflorescence is a compound umbel, with 3 to 8 umbels that are each 2 to 5 cm wide.

The fruit is a burr-like achene, which is covered in hooked bristles that can attach to animals or clothing for dispersal. The achenes are oval to oblong, about 5 mm long, and brown in color.


Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 28, 29, 30.

  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Asteranae  


Apiales (carrots, ivies, and allies)  
  Suborder Apiineae  


Apiaceae (carrot)  
  Subfamily Saniculoideae  
  Tribe Saniculeae  


Sanicula (sanicles)  

NCBI, the APG IV system, and iNaturalist place the genus Sanicula in the subfamily Saniculoideae. GRIN places it in the subfamily Apioideae. At least two recent molecular DNA studies of the subfamily Saniculeae maintain the placement of Sanicula within the subfamily Saniculoideae. No discussion of moving the genera could be found. ITIS, GBIF, USDA Plants, World Flora Online, and Plants of the World Online do not recognize a subfamily. If the placement in the subfamily Apioideae is an error, that error is repeated on Wikipedia.


Subordinate Taxa


Canadian black snakeroot (Sanicula canadensis var. canadensis)

long-styled black snakeroot (Sanicula canadensis var. grandis)






Common Names


Canada sanicle

Canadian black snakeroot

Canadian black-snakeroot

Canadian blacksnakeroot











Visitor Photos

Share your photo of this plant.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Attach one or more photos and, if you like, a caption.












Visitor Videos

Share your video of this plant.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Attach a video, a YouTube link, or a cloud storage link.


Other Videos



Visitor Sightings

Report a sighting of this plant.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Be sure to include a location.








Last Updated:

© All rights reserved.

About Us

Privacy Policy

Contact Us