Habit: winter dormant, returning in the spring from a good-sized somewhat succulent fleshy rootstock. The large green pinnate leaves 3-6 ft (1-2 m) long with 3-5 leaflets appear on thick, arching, non-woody stems. Flowering occurs June-August, on long 14-18 in (36-46 cm) stalks, with multiple branches of small, ball-like clusters of greenish white, sticky flowers. In the fall the flowers mature to small purple or black fruit, at the same time the stems begin to turn reddish. The foliage turns yellow and dies to the ground.
Ecology: moist shady areas, streambanks, and canyons at elevations below 6500 ft (2000 m). Grows in the greatest abundance in cold, wet forests, with acidic, humus-rich soil. Despite its streamside habit, elk clover will do well in any soil that does not dry out completely.
Growing Conditions: full shade to partial shade in moist rich soils. Grows in heavy shade as long as there is some moisture.
Aralia californica is in the Ginseng family and has medicinal uses as a tonic. Birds eat the berries and it is deer resistant.