Pacific Sanicle

Pacific Sanicle © DSchiel

Gambleweed, Pacific Snakeroot
Sanicula crassicaulis

Description (Jepson,

  • Eudicotyledon
    • Eudicots are a major lineage of flowering plants; see family for general characteristics
  • Carrot Family (Apiaceae)
  • Herbaceous biennial (dies after flowering in second year)
    • Grows from a taproot
  • Leaves
    • Palmately lobed (lobes radiating from a single point) with toothed margins
    • Surface coarse-textured
    • Sheath at base of petiole (leaf stalk)
  • Flowers
    • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) is a dense umbel (a spoke-like flower cluster with stalks radiating from a single point)
      • Large, leafy, green bracts (modified leaf) at base
    • Individual minute yellow flowers with curled petals
      • Both bisexual and male-only flowers
    • Ovary inferior (below the attachment of other flower parts)
  • Fruit is a schizocarp (a dry fruit that splits into 2 one-seeded segments), with curving prickles (extensions of the epidermis) and borne in small clusters
  • Height to 39 in.
    • Some plants grow quite tall and open; others stay more compact


  • Native to California
    • Grows in chaparral and on wooded slopes and canyons in oak, redwood, and mixed evergreen forests
    • See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
  • Outside California, grows from British Columbia to Baja California, Mexico, and southern South America
  • Grows at elevations to 4,900 ft.
Flower (L), Fruit (M), Leaf (R)
© KKorbholz (L,M) and SBernhard (R)

Uses (San Mateo County Parks prohibits removal of any natural material)

  • Native people
    • Made a poultice of the leaves for rattlesnake bites and other wounds
      • Alternative common name snakeroot probably refers to this use

Name Derivation

  • Sanicula (san-IK-yoo-la) – the diminutive of the Latin sanare, “to heal”
  • crassicaulis (kras-i-KAW-lis) – from the Latin crassus, “thick,” and caulis, “stem”; thus “thick-stemmed”


  • Prickles on the fruit enable seeds to be dispersed by attaching to animal fur or you!
Pacific Sanicle (L) and California Larkspur (R)
© SBernhard

ID Tips

  • Edgewood has 5 native sanicles (Sanicula species)
    • Pacific sanicle grows the tallest, is distinct in form, and is the only Edgewood sanicle that is common along woodland trails
  • When plant is not in flower, leaves may be confused with California larkspur leaves (Delphinium hesperium ssp. hesperium)
    • Pacific sanicle leaves are a darker green and have a rough surface, with a complex, reticulate (netted) pattern of veins, giving them a cobbled look 
    • California larkspur leaves are a lighter green and have a smooth surface, with a simple branching pattern of veins that lacks prominent reticulation

At Edgewood

  • Found in all plant communities, but especially common in woodlands
  • Flowers March – May

See General References

Specific References

Wilson, B. 2012. Sanicula crassicaulis, Snakeroot. Las Pilitas Native Plant Nursery.