Goatsbeard – Aruncus dioicus var. acuminatus

Subtaxa: our variety in Washington State is var. acuminatus.

At a Glance

  • Family: Rosaceae
  • Plant type: herbaceous perennial forb
  • Distribution: a complex set of different varieties native to different areas of the US and Canada, Central and Eastern Europe, and north eastern Asia. Our regional variety ranges along the coast and mountains from northern California to Alaska.
  • Habitat: mostly found in ‘edge’ and disturbed habitats (edges of roadways, waterways, forests) in low to middle elevations, along rocky ledges
  • Height: 1-2m tall
  • Reproduction: dioecious (each plant is either all male or all female)
  • Leaves: deciduous, larger lower leaves, 3 times compound leaves, leaflets toothed and serrated, with fewer and smaller leaves the higher up you go, green and hairless on topside, hairy and pale green on the underside of the leaflets.
  • Generation: perennial
  • Notable features: male plants have showier flowers, both clustered on branch-like spikelets

Restoration and Conservation

  • Provides food for and is pollinated by butterflies
  • Establishes rapid tall herbaceous cover and stabilizes soil in disturbed areas

Ethnobotany/Commercial Use

  • Tlingit prepared the roots for blood disease remedies
  • Nuxalk would use the roots to make tea for stomach pains, gonorrhea, and as a diuretic
  • Roots were boiled in mountain goat grease for treating smallpox
  • Kwakwaka’wakw would dry the root, soak, scrape, and then held it in the mouth as a type a cough medicine, like cough drops
  • Lummi chewed the leaves to help cure smallpox
  • Skagit burned the twigs (maybe roots too) and used the ashes mixed with bear grease to create a salve for swellings, particularly for the throat. They would also make a root infusion tea to cure colds and sore throats.
  • Klallam would make the same salve but use it on sores that wouldn’t heal
  • Mainland Comox would steep the roots and drink the roots to heal any swelling or even bath the swelling in the solution. They would burn the whole plant to make a charcoal that they could then use to reduce swellings or add some charcoal to water to prevent internal bleeding
  • Root infusion teas were given to Squamish women right before birth to help start the internal healing process
  • Makah ground the root in water and ingested it for kidney pains, and they would chew the leaves as a remedy for spitting up blood and signs of TB. They also had their own medicine for gonorrhea using the roots


For questions regarding the EERC Native Plant Guided Tour, contact Sarah Verlinde-Azofeifa at severlin@uw.edu.