Indicator Plants

Valeriana sitchensis – sitka valerian

Common Name

sitka valerian



Scientific Name

Valeriana sitchensis

Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
  • Medium (M)
  • Wet (W)
Soil Nutrient Regime (SNR)
  • Rich (R)

Botanical Drawing

Hitchcock, C. Leo, and Arthur Cronquist. Flora of the Pacific Northwest: An Illustrated Manual © 1973. Reprinted with permission of the University of Washington Press.

General / Habitat
  • Perennial plant
  • One of the most common inhabitants of subalpine meadows in our region
  • Can also grow in thickets and open forest from middle to high elevations
Key Identifying Characteristics
  • Form: Leafy stems growing from a stout, sour-smelling rhizome from 30-120 cm tall, typically smooth but sometimes short-hairy
  • Leaves: Opposite, large, in 2-5 pairs on stem, divided into 3-7 coarsely toothed leaflets, with the terminal leaflet being the largest
  • Flowers: white to pinkish, small, thickly sweet-smelling, petals fused into 5-lobed tube around distinctly protruding stamens, numerous borne in dense, terminal, slightly-rounded cluster
  • Fruit: “Seeds” (achenes) ribbed, egg-shaped, and bearing feathery plume to aid in wind dispersal
  • Another smaller Valerian, Valeriana scouleri
    • has smooth-edged leaflets and fewer stem leaves
Interesting Characteristics
  • Rhizome is distinctly sour-smelling, especially after first frost
  • Alaskan Tlinglit name for the plant translates to “medicine that stinks”
  • Used medicinally in Europe and by North American aboriginal peoples for various purposes

Douglas, G.W. et al (Editors). 1998-2002. Illustrated Flora of British Columbia, Volumes 1 to 8. B.C. Min. Environ., Lands and Parks, and B.C. Min. For., Victoria, B.C.

Pojar, J. and A. MacKinnon. 2014. Plants of Coastal British Columbia Including Washington, Oregon & Alaska. B.C. Ministry of Forestry and Lone Pine Publishing. Vancouver, B.C.



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