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Valeriana edulis

Valeriana edulis variety edulis

Valeriana edulis variety edulis (Edible Valerian)
Caprifoliaceae.
Synonym: Valerianaceae. (Honeysuckle Family)

Montane, subalpine, alpine. Meadows, openings. Summer.
Lizard Head Trail, June 19, 2004 and
Bolam Pass Road, July 2, 2014.

Valeriana edulis likes high mountain sunny meadows where its large, nearly vertical basal leaves and tall gangly flower stalk are very visible.

In the top photograph at left a young, foot tall Valeriana edulis has several tightly closed flower heads.  The second photograph shows a plant 2 feet tall plant with flower heads still not open.  Eventually flower heads open (see below) into a wide spray of many small flowers, and the nearly leafless stalk elongates, commonly to a scraggly three or four feet, but the height of the plant is quite dependent on growing conditions. Some mature plants in hot and dry conditions grow no more than a foot tall.

In 1826 David Douglas was the first to collect this plant for science. He found it, "Common in low, wet soils between the Kettle Falls and Spokan". The plant was named by Thomas Nuttall in 1841. "Edulis" is Latin for "edible".

Click to read a great account of Douglas' encounter with Valeraina edulis. (When the on-line book opens, pull down to the previous page to begin reading and continue reading the next few pages.)

Valeriana edulis

Valeriana edulis

Valeriana edulis variety edulis (Edible Valerian)
Caprifoliaceae.
Synonym: Valerianaceae. (Honeysuckle Family)

Montane, subalpine, alpine. Meadows, openings. Summer.
Lizard Head Trail, June 19, 2004 and Cross Mountain Trail, July 15, 2013.

Look for prominent white edging on the long basal leaves of Valeriana edulis.

Roots are thick and often a foot long and 2 inches wide. Although some find the taste of the root acceptable, most find it highly objectionable, likening the taste to chewing tobacco that has the odor of unwashed feet. Natives served these roots to John Charles Fremont and his party of western explorers and although the root was "agreeable" to some, to others it was so offensive that they refused to be in the same lodge with it. 

Cooked, the root may be offensive; raw it is toxic.

Valeriana edulis variety edulis

Valeriana edulis

Valeriana edulis

Valeriana edulis variety edulis (Edible Valerian)
Caprifoliaceae.
Synonym: Valerianaceae. (Honeysuckle Family)

Montane, subalpine, alpine. Meadows, openings. Summer.
Sharkstooth Trail, July 30, 2004 and June 24, 2014.

The tight cluster of flower buds gradually opens and the flower pedicels and peduncles lengthen giving the plant a very open and airy appearance.

Valeriana edulis
Valeriana edulis variety edulis (Edible Valerian)
Caprifoliaceae.
Synonym: Valerianaceae. (Honeysuckle Family)

Montane, subalpine, alpine. Meadows, openings. Summer.
Sharkstooth Trail, July 30, 2004.

Several 3 1/2 foot tall Valeriana edulis plants crowd each other at the 12,000 foot Sharkstooth Pass.  Each plant is about three feet across at the top. Plants growing in warmer and drier conditions at lower altitudes (down to about 7,000 feet) are far less robust.

Valeriana edulis
Valeriana edulis variety edulis (Edible Valerian)
Caprifoliaceae.
Synonym: Valerianaceae. (Honeysuckle Family)

Montane, subalpine, alpine. Meadows, openings. Summer.
Haviland Lake Trail, July 23, 2005.

Quarter inch long plumules, the elongated and feathered styles, carry the seeds.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Valeriana edulis