wild licorice

(Glycyrrhiza lepidota)

Conservation Status
wild licorice
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5? - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FACU - Facultative upland


FACU - Facultative upland

  Northcentral & Northeast

FACU - Facultative upland


Wild licorice is a 18 to 36 tall, though usually closer to 18 tall, erect, perennial forb that rises on 1 to several stems from extensive, deep, aromatic, woody, sweetish rhizomes. It often forms colonies.

The stems are hairless and branched. They are covered with unstalked glands, which are like minute, sticky hairs.

The leaves are alternate and up to 8 long. They are pinnately divided into an odd number of leaflets, possibly 7 to 21, but usually 11 to 19. When young the leaflets have small scales on their surface, which soon change to sticky, resinous dots (glands). They are arranged oppositely along the leaf stem, with a single leaflet terminating the stem. The leaflets are untoothed, lanceolate to oblong, ¾ to 1½ long, and 1½ to 2½ times as long as wide. They narrow to an abruptly-pointed tip. The upper surface is green and hairless. On the underside of the leaflets the midvein may be covered with hairs. There is a pair of small, linear, leaf-like appendages (stipules) at the base of each leaf stalk, but they fall off as the plant matures.

The inflorescence is a dense, conical-shaped cluster of about 10 to 20, 1 to 2 long flowers, rising from the middle and upper leaf axils. The clusters are shorter than the compound leaf subtending the cluster.

The flowers are about ½ long and have 5 petals. The petals are yellowish-white to greenish-white, and are arranged similar to alfalfa flowers, with banner, wings, and keel. The banner is only slightly bent backward from the wings. The wings are narrow. The keel comes to a sharp point.

The fruits are brown, ½ to 1 long, leathery pods containing 2 to 5 seeds. They are covered with many hooked, brown bristles, resembling a cocklebur.




18 to 36


Flower Color


Yellowish-white to greenish-white


Similar Species


Canadian milkvetch (Astragalus canadensis var. canadensis) is a taller plant, 12 to 48 tall at maturity. It does not have sticky glands, neither on the stem nor on the leaves. The leaflets are rounded or notched at the tip, not sharply pointed. The flowering spike is much longer, 7 to 11 long, is 1 or 2 longer than the compound leaf subtending it, and has about 75 flowers. The flowers are greenish-yellow to cream-colored.


Moist. Prairies, railroads, roadsides, disturbed areas.




May to June


Pests and Diseases






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 Rosanae  


Fabales (legumes, milkworts, and allies)  


Fabaceae (legumes)  
  Subfamily Faboideae  
  Tribe Galegeae (milkvetches, locoweeds, and allies)  
  Subtribe Glycyrrhizinae  
  Genus Glycyrrhiza  

Subordinate Taxa




Glycyrrhiza glutinosa

Glycyrrhiza lepidota var. glutinosa


Common Names


American licorice

dessert root



Nuttall’s licorice

wild licorice













The upper angle where the leaf stalk meets the stem.


Compound leaf

A leaf that is divided into leaflets, each leaflet having the general appearance of a leaf, with all leaflets attached to a single leaf stem.



Lance-shaped; much longer than wide, thickest toward the base, and gradually tapering toward the tip.



Long, straight, and narrow, with more or less parallel sides, like a blade of grass



Two to four times longer than wide with nearly parallel sides.



On a compound leaf, having the leaflets arranged on opposite sides of a common stalk. On a bryophyte, having branches evenly arranged on opposite sides of a stem.



A horizontal, usually underground stem. It serves as a reproductive structure, producing roots below and shoots above at the nodes.



A small leaf-like appendage at the base of a leafstalk.

Visitor Photos

Share your photo of this plant.

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




MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos


    wild licorice   wild licorice  
    wild licorice   wild licorice  


    wild licorice      


    wild licorice   wild licorice  


    wild licorice   wild licorice  
    wild licorice      



  Glycyrrhiza lepidota
Matt Lavin
  Glycyrrhiza lepidota  

Native perennial rhizomatous herb, stems sometimes over 1 m tall bearing few if any branches, herbage glandular punctate, pods densely bristly, each bristles with a hooked tip, open settings near streams and seep areas, gravel bars, moist meadows.




Visitor Videos

Share your video of this plant.

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


MinnesotaSeasons.com Sightings






Last Updated:

© MinnesotaSeasons.com. All rights reserved.

About Us

Privacy Policy

Contact Us