A member of the Parsley Family, purple sanicle (Sanicula bipinnatifida) is a native perennial found in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California. It grows in serpentine soils on bluffs and rocky slopes and in dry open forests and meadows at elevations less than 6,000 feet. These purple sanicle were photographed in early April along Waters Gulch Trail at Lake Shasta (Shasta County CA).
The stout stems of purple sanicle arise from a taproot. The pinnately divided leaves have a long petiole (stem) and can be green, greyish or purplish. There are flat, sharply pointed wings extending down the axis of the leaf.
The purple sanicle inflorescence, one or more per plant, is an umbel (the stalks arising from one point) composed of 3 to 5 heads. Each head contains bisexual and male-only flowers with tiny, curving, reddish purple or yellowish petals. The pistils and stamens exceed beyond the petals giving the head a fuzzy appearance. The bracts are leaf-like.
The fruits of purple sanicle are schizocarps (a fruit that divides into two parts at maturity, each containing one seed. Each head contains 3 to 8 schizocarps covered with hooked prickles.
Other common names for S bipinnatifida are shoe buttons and purple blacksnakeroot or purple snakeroot. Native Americans used a poultice of purple sanicle roots to treat snakebites.
The genus name, Sanicula, comes from the Latin “sanus” meaning “whole or sound” or, alternately, from “sanare” meaning “to heal”. “Cut pinnately twice”, the meaning of the species designation (bipinnatifida), refers to the leaves.