Pacific Snakeroot Seeds (Sanicula crassicaulis)
Also known as Pacific Sanicle, and Pacific Blacksnakeroot, this is a perennial member of the parsley/carrot-family and a denizen of seasonally damp meadows, and dry forest edges, and is well adapted to very dry summer conditions. This is a plant of some apparent historical medical uses, although we know little about those properties.
Growing from a long-lived taproot, this sturdy little plant forms tiny, dense yellow flower clusters – with some plants bearing both male and female flowers, while others only bear male flowers. We occasionally find small hairstreak butterflies nectaring on the plant.
The interesting trident-shaped leaves of Pacific snakeroot are more rounded and succulent at the base of the plant, while the upper leaves tend to be more distinctly pointed – we think this top to bottom difference sometimes make Pacific Snakeroot look like two different plants that became fused together.
Pacific snakeroot provides an interesting visual structure and contrast to more rigidly vertical meadow plants, co-mingling interestingly with camas, self heal, and tufted hairgrass. It’s a plant that is distinctly wild in appearance, and often one of the last native species left standing in degraded and damaged meadows before those spaces submit to invasive species. It’s a survivor, a symbol of the actual wild meadows that used to exist across the Pacific Coast, and likely a plant of some importance to our smallest and least understood spring pollinators.