Here’s a plant worth knowing: American spikenard (Aralia racemosa).
The berries (botanically drupes) are pretty tasty… not too sweet, not too bitter. Having said that, you probably don’t want to sit down to a whole bowl of them. As a trail nibble though, they’re perfect.
American spikenard is in the same family as ginseng and wild sarsaparilla (Araliaceae), and is therefore reported to contain similar medicinal compounds (for example, saponins and ginsenosides, which demonstrate tonifying effects).
What else can we say about American spikenard? A study from 2009 found that an extract from its aerial parts demonstrated anti-tumor activity against breast tumor cells (Planta Medica 2009). A more recent study from 2011 found that extracts from the roots of American spikenard demonstrated analgesic (pain-reducing) activity… comparable to aspirin (Research Journal of Pharmacy and Technology 2011).
Pretty great, huh? Check out American spikenard on your next walk — the fruits will continue to ripen for several weeks.
(Photo taken in North Park, Allegheny County Pennsylvania)