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BC Conservation Data Centre: Species Summary

Sanicula arctopoides
bear's-foot sanicle

Scientific Name: Sanicula arctopoides Hook. & Arn.
English Name: bear's-foot sanicle
Classification / Taxonomy
Scientific Name - Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Classification Level: Species
Species Group: Vascular Plant
Species Code: SANIARC
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Anthophyta Dicotyledoneae Apiales Apiaceae
Conservation Status / Legal Designation
Global Status: G5 (Jan 1990)
Provincial Status: S2 (Apr 2019)
BC List: Red
Provincial FRPA list:   
Provincial Wildlife Act:
COSEWIC Status: Threatened (Nov 2015)
SARA Schedule: 1  -  Threatened (Jun 2003)
General Status Canada: 1 - At Risk (2010)
Ecology & Life History
General Description:
Technical Description:
Subspecies Comments: Sanicula arctopoides is a well defined taxon with no recognized subspecies listed in Canada.
Identification Comments: Sanicula arctopoides is a prostrate to ascending monocarpic perennial. The basal leaves of reproductive plants are 3-cleft and toothed, form a rosette, and are often yellowish-green. The inflorescence consists of bright yellow compact umbels with a conspicuous involucel. The seeds are shizocarps with hooked prickles. S. arctopoides is one of five Sanicula species found in B.C. and one of three found in coastal meadows in southwestern B.C.
Similar Species: In B.C., Sanicula arctopoides is prostrate and has distinct involucels and yellow flowers, whereas Sanicula bipinnatifida has a more erect form, purple flowers, and no involucel. S. arctopoides is prostrate, has distinct involucels, and is found strictly in dry maritime meadows, whereas Sanicula crassicaulis has a more erect form, no involucel, and tends to grow in slightly deeper soil over a broader range of habitats.
Provincial Reproduction Comments: Sanicula arctopoides germinates and matures early in the season before potential competitors are growing (Fairbarns 2004d). Seedling mortality is low, and survivorship through the first drought season appears to be relatively high (Fairbarns 2004c). The seeds (mericarps) have small hooked prickles to allow dispersal via animal fur or human clothing. Each umbel produces a mix of bisexual and staminate flowers, the proportion of which changes over the season.
Provincial Ecology Comments: Sanicula arctopoides grows in dry meadows, which generally do not have dense competing vegetation. These sites are the first to senescence during summer droughts, and S. arctopoides is well adapted to access moisture through its deep, fleshy taproots. California populations of S. arctopoides do not appear to be affected by removal of inflorescences; the species will produce the same number of seeds and seed mass up to a certain threshold. Inflorescences are produced in a hierarchical pattern. Herbivory and other environmental factors may affect flower gender.
(Type / Subtype / Dependence)
Grassland/Shrub / Garry Oak Maritime Meadow / Facultative - frequent use
Grassland/Shrub / Grassland / Facultative - frequent use
Grassland/Shrub / Meadow / Facultative - frequent use
Provincial Habitat Comments: Sanicula arctopoides is found in dry maritime meadows in the sub-Mediterranean climate caused by the rain shadow of the Olympic and Vancouver Island mountains. Habitat occurs on nearly level to moderate slopes ranging from southeast to southwest aspect. Meso-slope position is either level, middle slope, or less commonly lower slope or toe. Sites are well- to rapidly-drained, dry in the summer and moist in the winter, although rarely saturated. Habitat occurs on shallow soils to bedrock or in locations with severe exposure to wind and/or salt spray. There may be no root restricting layer. Trees are not present. Shrubs, including Gaultheria shallon, Rosa nutkana, or Cytisus scoparius, are occasionally present. A mix of native and introduced plant species dominate the herbaceous layer.
Provincial Phenology:
(1st half of month/
2nd half of month)
Provincial Phenology Comments: Sanicula arctopoides breaks dormancy in October or early November after the first autumn rains. Vegetative growth continues until May with seedlings and small plants dying first and larger non-reproductive plants remaining green the longest. All plants are dormant by June or July. Seedlings germinate in January and February. Flower buds are visible by mid-February, and flowering peaks in March or early April. The fruit ripen in June and are shed until August or early September (Fairbarns 2004d).
Elevation (m) (min / max): Provincial:  1 / 6
Known Pests:
Pollen Vector:
Provincial Inventory
Inventory Priority:
Ownership of occurrences (Known locations): Mixed government
Inventory Need: Further inventory for Sanicula arctopoides is required along unsurveyed coastlines, in particular on First Nations lands that have not been inventoried.
Inventory Comments: When in flower, Sanicula arctopoides is relatively distinctive and easy to identify. However, the verification of four undocumented populations (Discovery Island, Mary Tod Island, Swordfish Island, Church Point) since the status report (Donovan and Douglas 2000) was written indicates there is a need for further, more comprehensive inventory.
Economic Attributes
Provincial Economic Comments: Sanicula arctopoides is not used commercially, and there is no recorded use by First Nations.
Endemic: N
Disjunct, more common elsewhere: Y
Peripheral, major distribution elsewhere: Y
Authors / Contributors
Global Information Author:
Last Updated:
Provincial Information Author: Maslovat, C.
Last Updated: Feb 28, 2005
Last Literature Search:
References and Related Literature
B.C. Ministry of Environment. Recovery Planning in BC. B.C. Minist. Environ. Victoria, BC.
Donovan, M., and G.W. Douglas. 2000. Status Report on Snake-root Sanicle, Sanicula arctopoides, in Canada. Unpubl. rep. submitted to the Comm. on the Status of Endangered Wildl. in Can. Ottawa. 20pp.
Donovan, M.T., and G.W. Douglas. 2001. Status of Snake-root Sanicle, Sanicula arctopoides (Apiaceae) in Canada. Can. Field-Nat. 115(3):466-471.
Douglas, G.W., D. Meidinger, and J. Penny. 2002. Rare Native Vascular Plants of British Columbia, 2nd ed. B.C. Conserv. Data Centre, Terrestrial Inf. Branch, Victoria. 358pp.
Douglas, G.W., G.D. Straley, and D. Meidinger, eds. 1998b. Illustrated Flora of British Columbia, Vol. 1, Gymnosperms and Dicotyledons (Aceraceae through Asteraceae). B.C. Minist. Environ., Lands and Parks, Wildl. Branch, and B.C. Minist. For. Res. Program. 436pp.
Fairbarns, M. 2005b. Demographic and Phenological Patterns of Sanicula arctopoides (Bear's-foot Sanicle). Aruncus Consulting, 776 Falkland Road, Victoria, BC. 28 pp.
Maslovat, C. 2009. Guidelines for Translocation of Plant Species at Risk in British Columbia. B.C. Minist. of Environ. Victoria, BC.
Parks Canada Agency. 2006c. Recovery Strategy for Multi-species at Risk in Maritime Meadows Associated with Garry Oak Ecosystems in Canada. In: Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Ottawa: Parks Canada Agency. 93 pps.

Please visit the website Conservation Status Ranks for definitions of the data fields used in this summary report.

Suggested Citation:

B.C. Conservation Data Centre. Species Summary: Sanicula arctopoides. B.C. Minist. of Environment. Available: (accessed Jul 4, 2022).