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Aralia californica

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About Elk's Clover (Aralia californica) Aralia californica, known by the common name elk clover though not actually a clover, is a large herb in the family Araliaceae, the only member of that family native to California and southwestern Oregon. It is a deciduous herbaceous perennial plant growing to a height of 2-3 meters on stems which are thick but not woody. The stems bear large green pinnate or bipinnate leaves 1-2 meters long and 1 meter broad, the leaflets 15-30 centimeter long and 7-15 centimeter broad. The greenish white flowers are produced in large, ball-shaped compound umbels 30-45 centimeter diameter at the stem tip; each star-shaped flower is 2-3 millimeter diameter, and matures to small (3-5 millimeter) dark purple or black fruit, each berry containing 3-5 seeds. This plant performs best under trees or in other moist, shady areas.
Plant Description
Plant Type
Perennial herb

Max. Height
6.6 - 10 ft (2 - 3 m)

Max. Width
10 ft (3.0 m)

Winter Deciduous

Flower Color
White, Green

Flowering Season
Summer, Fall

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Moist forested canyons, streamsides

Shade, Part Shade

Elevation ?
25' - 7419'

Annual Precip. ?
5.0" - 133.4"

Summer Precip. ?
0.21" - 3.85"

Coldest Month ?
33.5° F - 53.6° F

Hottest Month ?
56.2° F - 80.5° F

Humidity ?
0.01 vpd - 32.30 vpd

Soil Description
Tolerates a variety of soils

Soil PH
4.0 - 7.0

Soil Toxicity Tolerance
Tolerates Serpentine Soil


Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 5° F

Sunset Zones ?
3, 4, 5*, 7*, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16*, 17*, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23

Companion Plants
Use under trees such as Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), Firs (Abies sp.), Maples (Acer sp.), Pines (Pinus sp.), Bay Laurel (Umbellularia californica), Chinquapin (Chrysolepis chrysophylla or sempervirens), and Tanoak (Notholithocarpus densiflorus), along with other shade-loving and moisture loving plants such as native ferns, Wild Ginger (Asarum caudatum), Columbine (Aquilegia formosa), Chinese Houses (Collinsia heterophylla), Larkspur (Delphinium sp.), Bleeding Heart, and Bigflower Tellima (Tellima grandiflora).

Wildlife Attracted
Birds are attracted to the fruits

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Moderately Easy

Water Requirement ?
Moderate - High
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Moderately Popular

Max. Summer Water ?
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: No treatment.

Common uses
Deer Resistant, Bee Gardens

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Other Names
Common Names
Elk Clover, California Spikenard

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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