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Roseroot

Rhodiola rosea

  • Name also: Golden Root, Aaron’s Rod, Roseroot Stonecrop, Rose-root, Rose Root, Arctic Root
  • Family: Stonecrop Family – Crassulaceae
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Tufted. Rootstock thick, almost like tuber, rose-like fragrance.
  • Height: 10–35 cm (4–14 in.). Stem ascending–erect, branched.
  • Flower: Plant usually dioecious. Corolla regular (actinomorphic), yellow, approx. 0.5–1 cm (0.2–0.4 in.) broad; petals 4, approx. 3.5 mm (0.14 in.) long on staminate flowers, 2.5 mm (0.1 in.) long on pistillate flowers. Calyx fused, 4-lobed, lobes 2.5 mm (0.1 in.) long, yellow. Staminate flower with 8 stamens and non-functional gynoecium, pistillate flower with 4-leaved gynoecium and short, non-functional stamens. Inflorescence a dense, hemispherical cyme.
  • Leaves: Alternate, stalkless. Lowest leaves scale-like. Stem leaf blade elliptic–obovate, sharp-tipped, blunt-toothed, flat, glabrous, slightly fleshy, bluish.
  • Fruit: 4 united, many-seeded follicles.
  • Habitat: Fell river and stream banks, snow-bed sites, rock shelves, scree beds. Also an ornamental.
  • Flowering time: July–August.

Roseroot is a typical stonecrop plant, with its sturdy stem, juicy leaves and waxy covering to reduce evaporation. Its habitats in Finland are however relatively damp: shore banks, snow-bed sites and wet Lappish rock faces. It is common in Finland only in the fells of north-western Enontekiö, but it also grows more rarely in Finland’s north-western “arm”, the large north-western fells of Utsjoki, and the banks of the River Muonio. Its southernmost stand in Pudasjärvi is very separate and scant.

Roseroot was earlier a member of genus Sedum, but it differs with respect to the scaliness of its rootstock and the way that it is mainly dioecious and has four flowers (four sepals and tepals, eight stamens, four pistils). Roseroot is not always dioecious and unisexual: sometimes plants with both male and female flowers or bisexual plants can be found.

Roseroot’s colloquial and scientific name come from the rose-like fragrance of the root (when crushed or splitted), which has been used in the past as a perfume and also a medicinal herb. In Russia it has a long history as a special and diverse medicine. It has not been used so much in Europe, but information about its ability to increase sexual vitality has made it popular. Nowadays in Finland too there are many roseroot preparations, and it is marketed as ‘northern ginseng’. Studies on the plant’s properties and active ingredients continue, but it is at least a tonic that boosts general health. If the roseroot that is consumed in Finland was collected from the wild, the species would soon suffer, but luckily it can be successfully cultivated in southern Finland too. Cultivated stands can look very different depending on where in the northern hemisphere the original plants have come from.

Other species from the same family

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