Brewer’s angelica (Angelica breweri) growing along the Truckee River near Truckee, CA. August 2011. Photo: Kelsey McCutcheon.
Brewer’s angelica is native to the Sierra Nevada range, and can be found along upper reaches of the Truckee River. Its white flowers look like fireworks — rounded bundles of blossoms that radiate out from a central point on the stalk, an arrangement called a compound umbel.
According to the book Indian Uses of Native Plants, by Edith Van Allen Murphey (1958), this plant was traditionally used for one thing: Magic. The root can be used as a gambling talisman (so, could be useful here in Reno). Murphey did much of her work in the Rocky Mountains, Medocino County, CA, and the Carson Indian Agency in NV. She doesn’t specify which tribe she got this information from.
Brewer’s angelica is a member of the Carrot family (Apiaceae), with a strong taproot and leaves that are twice-pinnately compound. A plant with twice-pinnately compound leaves has leaflets that are divided into a second set of leaflets. For examples, look at these diagrams or see the photo of Brewer’s angelica leaves below.
Brewer’s angelica looks similar to two other plants you might find on the Truckee: Poison hemlock, and Cow parsnip. The leaves of the Poison hemlock are more fern-like, and the leaves of the Cow parsnip are palmate (veins radiate out from a central point) and up to 2 feet wide.
Graf, M. (1999). Plants of the Tahoe Basin. Berkeley, CA: California Native Plant Society Press.
Murphey, Edith Van Allen. (1958). Indian Uses of Native Plants. Glenwood, IL: Meyerbooks.
USDA Plants: Plants profile for Angelica breweri, Brewer’s Angelica. USDA Plants Database. Accessed 7/15/15.