Aralia nudicaulis is a perennial herb, about 30 cm tall; roots associated with vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (Berliner and Torrey 1989; Brundrett and Kendrick 1988). extensively colonial from rhizomes, stemless, leaves and flower stalks arise directly from rhizome, shoots of one rhizome can live to 25 years, and may be spaced to nearly 1 m apart, most shoots of a clone do not flower (Edwards 1984).
Leaves twice pinnate, 3-parted each part in turn with 3-5 leaflets, each about 10 cm long, 6 cm wide, narrowly elliptic, tip long-pointed, margin toothed.
Flowers tiny, whitish, in round clusters on stalks shorter than leaves, usually 3 clusters per stalk, May-July, plants/colonies usually dioecious, (sexes separate); female flowers bloom before males; pollinated by bumble bees and visited by other bees and syrphid flies (Flanagan and Moser 1985), females have fewer flowers than males but flowering stems are larger than those of males, possibly related to the need to support fruit production (Barrett and Helenurm 1981).
Fruit fleshy, blackish, July-Aug., several-seeded. Seed load 11%. Pulp nutrients: water 81%, lipid 1%, protein 4%, CHO 56% (White 1989). Fruit eaten by some birds and mammals, seeds dispersed by foxes and birds (Edwards 1984).
Wetland status: FACU.
Frequency in NYC: Occasional.
Habitat: Undisturbed forest understories, shade tolerant. Soil pH 5-7.2 (USDA, NRCS 2006) but found in forest soils pH 4.4-5.3 (Gargiullo, unpublished data). Well established colonies may resprout from rhizomes after soil disturbance. Appears to be quite drought tolerant (Gargiullo personal observations).