Purple Sanicle

Purple Sanicle © DSchiel

Shoe Buttons, Snakeroot, Satellite Plant
Sanicula bipinnatifida

Description (Jepson, PlantID.net)

  • Eudicotyledon
    • Eudicots are a major lineage of flowering plants; see family for general characteristics
  • Carrot Family (Apiaceae)
  • Perennial herb
    • Grows from a taproot
  • Leaves
    • Basal and alternate (1 leaf at each junction with stem)
    • Deeply divided into several roughly-toothed lobes
    • Long, thick leaf stalks (petioles)
    • Purple-tinged
  • Flowers
    • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) is a densely-packed, reddish-purple ball of flowers
    • Each flowerhead has around 20 bisexual and male-only flowers
    • Stamens (male flower parts) extend beyond the 5 tiny, curling petals
    • Ovary inferior (below the attachment of other flower parts)
  • Fruit is a schizocarp (a dry fruit that splits into 2 single-seeded segments)
  • Height to 2 ft.
Flower © KKorbholz


  • Native to California
    • Grows in woodlands and grasslands, and areas with serpentine soils
    • 55-64% of the plants occur on ultramafic soils, e.g. serpentine; see ultramafic affinity rankings (Calflora per Safford and Miller 2020)
    • See Serpentine Grassland for more about Edgewood’s serpentine soil and the unique communities it supports
    • See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
  • Outside California, grows on the west coast of North America from British Columbia to Baja California, Mexico
  • Grows at elevations between 65 and 6,070 ft.

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

  • Native people used a decoction of the root as a cure-all and applied an infusion of leaves to snakebites

Name Derivation

  • Sanicula (san-IK-yoo-la) – from the diminutive of the Latin sanare, meaning “to heal”
  • bipinnatifida (bye-pin-a-TIF-i-da)- from the Latin for “twice pinnately cut,” referring to the leaf


  • Pollinated by insects
  • Seeds have curved prickles, which can attach to fur or clothing, enabling dispersal

ID Tips

  • Edgewood has 5 native sanicles (Sanicula species)
    • Purple sanicle is the only one with reddish-purple, ball-shaped flowers

At Edgewood

  • Found in serpentine and non-serpentine grasslands
  • Flowers February – May

See General References

Specific References

Alexander, E.B. 2010, Oct. & 2011, Jan. Serpentine soils and why they limit plant survival and growth. Fremontia 38/39: 28-31.

Safford, H.D. 2010, Oct. & 2011, Jan. Serpentine endemism of the California flora. Fremontia 38/39: 32-39.

Safford, H.D. and J.E.D. Miller. 2020. An updated database of serpentine endemism in the California flora. Madroño 67(2): 85-104. BioOne Complete. PDF hosted by San Diego State University, San Diego, California.