05.27.2022 I’ll have me a sarsaparilla, barkeep!

I seem to remember that being a line in some old western movie, maybe more than one, and have read that it was the precursor to root beer. After wandering through the woods around Atkins Reservoir last Monday morning enjoying all the lady’s slippers I headed back to the car and noticed this Wild Sarsaparilla plant-Aralia nudicaulis along the side of the path.

The root is a rhizome and is the source of the drink mentioned above, root beer, although I imagine the vast majority of that soda is now chemically flavored rather than naturally.

The flowers form a globe which in turn become dark red or black berries as the plant matures. They are sometimes used in various home remedies for a list of ailments but are a bit distasteful. The root is by far the most widely used and sweetest part of the plant. The drink was also concocted using Sassafras.

Wild Sarsaparilla is found in most of the U.S. except for the Southwestern states.

On a side but slightly related note, about 47 years ago I worked at a furniture store in Springfield, MA and on Saturday we’d have the TV on tuned to one station all day which included cartoons.ย  Even as an adult I enjoyed one particular feature on Saturday morning that was of course aimed at children but I found it a fun interruption in the cartoons. Schoolhouse Rock had such topics as Science Rock, Multiplication Rock, and Grammar Rock which had this little short film loosely related to today’s post. I’ve embedded it rather than linking to avoid the commercial at the beginning.


About Steve Gingold

I am a Nature Photographer with interests in all things related. Water, flowers, insects and fungi are my main interests but I am happy to photograph wildlife and landscapes and all other of Nature's subjects.
This entry was posted in Amherst, Closeup Photography, Flora, Nature Photography, Western Massachusetts, Wildflowers and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to 05.27.2022 I’ll have me a sarsaparilla, barkeep!

  1. Ms. Liz says:

    An interesting plant Steve, and the bright and breezy video is great fun!!! ๐Ÿ˜€


  2. Platypus Man says:

    As a Brit I’d heard of root beer and heard of sarsaparilla but didn’t know they were connected, so I’ve learned something today. I’ve also learned more about pronouns…sadly my grammar lessons weren’t nearly as much fun as Schoolhouse Rock ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gallivanta says:

    The Wild Sarsaparilla is very pretty. And the Sarsaparillas in the video are wild and wacky ( on a sarsaparilla sugar high?) but very informative. Like Platypus Man, I can say that my grammar lessons weren’t nearly as much fun.


    • That group who created the films in the series were so creative and instilled fun into learning. We all would have been much happier with those kinds of lessons. Maybe they did hoist a few before filming.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. naturebackin says:

    Most interesting seeing the plant that is used for root beer and the video was entertaining and cleverly done!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Here’s the skinny on Schoolhouse Rock:
    Making learning fun is a good approach.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The American Heritage Dictionary indicates that English applies the word sarsaparilla to plants in two botanical families:

    People have used the fragrant roots of plants in the genus Smilax to flavor root-beer-like drinks. The Plants for a Future website says of Aralia nudicaulis: “The root is collected in late summer and the autumn and dried for later use. A drink made from the pulverised roots is used as a cough treatment. A poultice made from the roots and/or the fruit is applied to sores, burns, itchy skin, ulcers, swellings etc. A homeopathic remedy made from the roots is important in the treatment of cystitis.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. melissabluefineart says:

    Doris Day says that in Calamity Jane. “Make mine a Sasparilly”, I think. So fun. This plant takes me back a few years to a nearly vertical slope in a ravine next to Lake Michigan. My botanist friend took me down there to find this plant~it is the only place I know of that it grows around here. Extremely treacherous footing! A year earlier he’d broken his leg on that slope, so I was nervous and didn’t get a very good photo of the plant, but good enough to work from. Here it has a very high conservation value.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wally Jones says:

    About a million years ago, we lived in Maryland and I became immersed in the foraging culture. My attempts to make a potable Sarsaparilla drink all ended in foul-tasting concoctions which even generous portions of sugar couldn’t fix.

    During that same time period, we had two young children and we loved Schoolhouse Rock! For the kids, doncha know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • For us adult kids too. The closest I’ve ever got to sassaparilla was birch beer and root beer. Maybe I should follow your lead and make some for myself…with lots of sugar.


  9. Very nice series of Wild Sarsaparilla plants images Steve! Have not seen them before! Or did not know what they were!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. That’s a fun song! And the singer’s name is pretty fun, too, almost a tongue-twister. Beryl Cyril Sheldon Jr.
    I think Teddy Roosevelt promoted the image of himself as a healthy sarsaparilla drinker, but apparently it was an open secret that he favored another plant and loved mint juleps.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. shoreacres says:

    The first time I saw ‘sarsaparilla’ in print, I had no idea it was the same word that we used in the neighborhood. I still pronounce it ‘sasparilla,’ just as I still love root beer. Our Sunday routine when I was a kid was a Sunday afternoon drive followed by a root beer float at the A&W – and one of my favorite candies was the root beer barrel. Three for a nickel, back in the day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • We had family trips to the A&W stand here too. Besides the root beer we had a choice of the Mama or Papa burgers. And yes to the root beer barrels too. And I also mispronounce Sarsa as Sarsp and fortunately Spellcheck alerted me to that or I would have had it as a typo in the post.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Todd Henson says:

    I don’t drink soda much anymore but I do love Sarsaparilla. And Birch Beer. And Root Beer. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • I rarely do now. I had my last Coke the day I found out I was diabetic in 2008. About the only time I have soda is when I am on the road for work and there is only that or water and most of the time it’s water. I do have sweets, no doubt too many, and given the chance I’d definitely enjoy one of those Root Beer Barrels Linda mentioned.


  13. Ann Mackay says:

    Aha, so now I know what sarsaparilla is…love its globe-shaped flowers. The video is more fun than I remember having in school!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. bluebrightly says:

    Nice find! I remember tasting it at some point long ago….

    Liked by 1 person

    • When I was a kid I used to go to a local store and there was a huge chest cooler with lots of different sodas. I don’t remember exactly but am sure there must have been some sarsaparilla among all of the choices.

      Liked by 1 person

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