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Sweet After Death
Achlys triphylla

About Sweet After Death (Achlys triphylla) Achlys is a small genus of flowering plants in the barberry family, which it shares with genera such as Berberis and Vancouveria. There are either two or three species, depending on the authority. Achlys triphylla and Achlys californica are both native to western North America. Another Achlys is found in Japan: some authorities treat this as a subspecies of A. triphylla, while others, especially in older treatments, call this Achlys japonica. Still others consider A. triphylla and A. californica too similar to be separate species. 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 . Achlys triphylla (Sm.) DC, known in western North America as vanillaleaf, is an erect perennial plant that sprouts from a creeping rhizome. Leaves are long-petioled and palmately divided into three leaflets. Flowers are small and lack sepals and petals, but instead have long showy white stamens that form single erect spikes. The leaflets give a great hint to the identity the plant: bend back the middle leaflet and you have an upside-down set of moose antlers. Alternatively, bend back the two side leaflets and you have a goose or deer foot (hence the common name). In the Pacific Northwest, Achlys triphylla is ubiquitous in moist shady forests west of the Cascades at low to middle elevations from Vancouver island and southern British Columbia south to northern California. 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.
Plant Description
Plant Type
Perennial herb

Max. Height
1.3 ft (0.4 m)

Flower Color
Cream, White

Flowering Season
Spring, Summer

Native Status

Natural Setting
Part Shade

Elevation ?
63' - 6587'

Annual Precip. ?
21.8" - 153.3"

Summer Precip. ?
0.40" - 5.84"

Coldest Month ?
35.6° F - 49.8° F

Hottest Month ?
53.0° F - 74.4° F

Humidity ?
0.01 vpd - 21.93 vpd

Soil Description
Prefers moist soil

Soil Texture
Clay, Clay Loam, Loam, Loamy Sand, Sand, Sandy Clay, Sandy Clay Loam, Sandy Loam

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Moderately Easy

Common uses

Nursery Availability
Rarely Available

Other Names
Common Names
Deervetch Vanillaleaf, 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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