Aralia racemosa, or American spikenard, is a rhizomatous, shrubby-looking, but soft-stemmed, herbaceous perennial of the Ginseng family that is native to moist rich woods from Quebec to Manitoba south to Mississippi and Georgia and west to Utah and New Mexico.
It is easily grown in average to medium, moist, well-drained soils in full sun to shade, but best in part shade. The species prefers moist, fertile, humusy loams, but tolerates a wide range of soils including rocky and clayey ones. It grows nicely in areas sheltered from strong winds which helps to protect the large compound leaves.
This plant starts out as a sleeper in the spring garden that transforms into a summer stunner. Gone for the winter, the plant grows to 4 or 5 feet tall by summer, and looks beautiful and commanding either as an individual speciman or when massed. The fine sprays of white, diminutive flowers turn to green then burgandy bunches of small grapelike fruits, which then darken to blue-black. The plant then disappears for the winter. It's a real Chameleon!