[Valerians and Heliotropes: The Genus Valeriana East of the Cascade
Mountains of Oregon and Washington]
Edible Valerian, Tobacco-root
Valeriana edulis var. edulis
This photo shows sitka valerian as seen along Road #4670 at Billy Meadows Guard Station in the northern Wallowa-Whitman N.F.......June 26, 2008.
at right of edible valerian from Big Summit Prairie, Ochoco N.F........June
Edible valerian is a tall, erect perennial that ascends 10-120
cm from a stout, fleshy taproot. The basal leaves are numerous, firm, linear
to obovate in shape and 7-40 cm long and 7-55 mm wide. The blades taper gradually
to the petiole or base, and the margins are entire. Occasionally, some of the
basal leaves will have several forward pointing lobes at the base. The 2-6 pairs
of stem leaves are smaller, usually pinnatifid, with narrow lobes and short
petioles, and becoming sessile towards the inflorescence.
The inflorescence is a panicle, often compact during bloom and
elongating or expanding in fruit. The flowers are either perfect, staminate,
or pistillate. The 5 petals or lobes of the corolla are slightly shorter than
The species name edulis meas edible. The taproot, when cooked
was eaten by native Americans. The plant has an unpleasant odor, likened to
"dirty feet", but after cooing the plant is more palatable. Evidently
rats are attracted to the odor of the roots, and thus the roots were once used
to attract rats for poisoning.
Edible valerian grows in moist meadows to slightly dry sites
in montane or subalpine zones.
Edible valerian may be found from southern British Columbia
south along the eastern edge of the Cascades to Mexico, and east to Montana,
Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio, and Ontario.
These 2 photos show close-up views of the inflorescence and upper stem leaves of edible valerian as seen along Road #4670 at Billy Meadows Guard Station in the northern Wallowa-Whitman N.F........June 26, 2008. Click each photo to see enlarged views.
Edible valerian blooming in riparian soils atop Baldy Mountain, Strawberry Mountain Wilderness.......July 2, 2010.
Edible valerian blooming in Summit Prairie, Malheur National Forest..........May 28, 2014.
Edible valerian beginning to bloom in moist meadows between FS Road #42 and Johnson Creek on forest service lands about one hundred meters west of the beginning of private lands in western Big Summit Prairie, Ochoco National Forest..........April 29, 2016.
Edible valerian blooming along the Ponderosa Loop Trail near the Ochoco Divide, Ochoco National Forest........May 19, 2018.
Close-up of the flowers and upper leaves of
edible valerian from Big Summit Prairie, Ochoco N.F........June 27, 1998.
Valeriana edulis from Bear Lake, Bob Marshall Wilderness.....July 30, 1999.