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Garden heliotrope or Valerian

(Valeriana officinalis)

Photo of valerian
Photo credit: Wisconsin DNR

Tall (1-5') herbaceous perennial with fleshy stalks. Introduced as a medicinal plant. Roots have a pungent odor. Plants emerge early in spring.


Other names for this plant include:
  • Common names: garden heliotrope, garden valerian, Greek valerian, common valerian
  • Scientific names: None
Ecological threat:
  • Invades upland forests, wetlands, marshes, woodland swamps, grasslands, and stream edges.
  • Tolerant of both wet and dry conditions.
  • Rapidly expanding its range in northern Wisconsin.
  • Early emergence, vigorous growth habit and the ability to self-seed give this species a competitive advantage resulting in the displacement of native species.
Overview map of valerian classification in WI
Restricted (orange) counties

Classification in Wisconsin: Restricted

Species Assessment Groups (SAG) were assembled to recommend a legal classification for each species considered for NR 40. The recommendation for garden valerian was based upon this literature review [PDF] developed by the department.


Leaves & stems: Opposite, pinnately compound leaves. 5-25 toothed lanceolate leaflets.

Flowers: White to pale-pink tiny flowers, arranged in tight clusters.

Fruits & seeds: Small oblong capsules release abundant powdery seeds.

Roots: White, fleshy rhizomes with thick fibrous roots and a pungent odor.


  • Pull, cut or mow plants prior to flowering.
  • Foliar spray with triclopyr or glyphosate.


View garden valerian pictures in our photo gallery!


Sources for content:
  • Czarapata, Elizabeth; Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest: an illustrated guide to their identification and control. University of Wisconsin Press. 2005. Pg. 70-72
  • Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium. University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Valeriana officinalis. [exit DNR]
  • Invasive Plant Atlas of New England
  • Gleason, H., Cronquist, A. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plant of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada Second Edition; pg 66.
Links for more information: