Valerianaceae : Valerian Family


Scientific Name:

Kingdom: Plantae


Class: Dicoteldonae (two seed-leaves)

Family: Valerianaceae

Genera: 1

Species: 2

Valeriana capitata (Mountain Valerian)

Valeriana sitchensis (? Valerian)

English Name(s):

Valerian Family

Gwich'in Name:

Family Traits


  • North American members of this family have small flowers in clusters.
  • Flowers can be perfect (bisexual) or imperfect (unisexual), regular in symmetry to slightly irregular.
  • Sepals are inconspicuous.
  • Petals 5, united often with a spur at the base of the flower.
  • Stamens 1 to 4.
  • Ovary is positioned inferior and consists of 3 united carpels (chambers) but aborts 2 forming just one chamber.
  • Fruit is an achene.

Natural History:

Family Size:


Genera: 13

Species: 400

North America:

Genera: 3

Species: 22?


Genera: 1

Species: 3

Illustrated Key To Family

Note: Move cursor over image for note on what to look for. Click on image to enlarge.

Valeriana capitata (Mountain Valerian)

Valeriana sitchensis (? Valerian)

Dicotomous Key To Family


Valeriana (Valerian, Tobacco Root)

  • Plants perennial, herbaceous (not woody), from an ascending rhizome. (underground stem).
  • Leaves opposite, simple or pinnately divided.
  • Inflorescence (flower clusters) a terminal head elongating in fruit into an open and branching raceme or thyrsoid-panicle.
  • Flowers perfect (bisexual), more or less irregular in symmetry.
  • The roots of Valeriana species all have a characteristic "dirty sock smell", due to the presence of isovaleric acid.
  • Fruit small, dry, flattened achenes, 1-nerved on one side and 3-nerved on the other.

World= 250

N.A.= 19

Yukon= 3

Central Yukon= 2

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