Common Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

Common Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

Common Valerian grows in moist soils, along stream banks, in wet meadows, fens, and roadside ditches.  It can also grow in dryer conditions, and will tolerate some shade.



Common Valerian was brought to North America as a garden and medicinal plant.  It is still cultivated for these purposes, but often manages to escape into natural landscapes.  Common Valerian root has been historically used to treat many ailments, including: sleep disorders, anxiety, joint pain, etc.


Here are some key features that may help to positively identify Common Valerian:

  • Grows to 1.5 – 5ft tall
  • Leaves are compound and pinnately divided; leaflets are long with serrated edges, hairy underneath, with 5-25 leaflets per leaf
  • Stems are thick, fleshy, and ridged
  • Flowers are white or pale pink, forming in tight clusters at the top of the plant in 2-5 umbrella-shaped umbels, fragrant – very sweet smelling
  • Blooms June – August
  • Fruit are lance-shaped, small (0.1 inch), and contain many powdery seeds
  • Roots are fibrous; small, white, fleshy rhizomes have a pungent odour
  • Common Valerian spread vigorously by self-seeding and aerial stolons
  • Look-alikes include:  bulbous water hemlock (native), woodland angelica (invasive)

Common Valerian is considered a priority species for the PEI Invasive Species Spotters Network. If you see this plant, please report your sighting.