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Achlys californica
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Deer's Foot
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Achlys californica

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About Deer's Foot (Achlys californica) Achlys californica is a small genus of flowering plants in the barberry family, which it shares with genera such as Berberis and Vancouveria.The common names for these plants include vanilla leaf (sometimes written as vanilla-leaf or vanillaleaf, depending on the taxonomist or flora) and deer's foot.The plants are spaced widely on the rhizomes, but often overlap in large networks that result in carpets of Achlys that dominate the near-surface understory. Achlys seems to prefer moist soil, so at middle to higher elevations it is easier to find them along streambanks or well-shaded ravines. When dried properly, the plants are strongly aromatic and smell of vanilla. Besides serving as an excellenttent air freshener, Achlys was used by native tribes of at least southern British Columbia as an insect repellent. The dried leaves were hung in bunches in doorways to ward off flies and mosquitoes, and it's not unheard of for naturalists to rub the dried or even fresh leaves on exposed skin when hiking the Olympics or Cascades during the summer mosquito season.
Plant Description
Plant Type
Perennial herb

Max. Height
1 - 1.6 ft (0.3 - 0.49 m)

Flower Color

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Moist places

Part Shade

Elevation ?
66' - 6298'

Annual Precip. ?
19.6" - 130.5"

Summer Precip. ?
0.57" - 4.74"

Coldest Month ?
37.2° F - 47.5° F

Hottest Month ?
55.9° F - 71.0° F

Humidity ?
0.38 vpd - 18.63 vpd

Landscaping Information
Nursery Availability
Never or Almost Never Available

Other Names
Common Names
Vanilla Leaf

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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