Aniseroot (Osmorhiza longistylis) is a perennial member of the Carrot family – Apiaceae – and is uncommon to rare in the Wake County portion of Falls Lake. A few years ago, there was a very large population at the tailrace below the Falls lake Dam, but it is difficult to find any there now. The very interesting divided, compound foliage of Aniseroot appears above ground in late fall and persists throughout the entire winter. This allows identification of the plant before the energetic spring growth and bloom. The common name is derived from the scent of anise – mild in the leaves and strong in the roots.
Osmorhiza longistylis has a close relative – Osmorhiza claytonii (Sweet Cicely), which has very similar late fall and winter foliage and is quite difficult to distinguish from Aniseroot until the bloom occurs. The flowers of Aniseroot have styles that are significantly longer than the petals, while the flowers of Sweet Cicely have styles that are shorter than the petals. Sweet Cicely also has a more westward distribution and is not found in the Falls Lake area.
The long styles of Aniseroot are quite striking as illustrated in several of the following photos demonstrating the mature plant and the bloom.
Another plant with interesting and persistent winter foliage is Yellowroot (Xanthorhiza simplicissima). Yellowroot comes from the Buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) and has similar but slightly less complex compound foliage. It is more common in the Falls Lake area than Aniseroot and tends to occur right at the margins of streams and lakes. The winter foliage is low and spreading, but in the spring, the growth is upright with woody stems.
Depending on the location, both Aniseroot and Yellowroot are blooming or starting to bloom now, in mid April.