Planting and Growing the Sweet After Death

Also known as vanilla leaf, the sweet after death plant is a member of the barberry family of plants. It is native to the United States and is botanically known as Achlys triphylla.

Sweet After Death Description

Growing under eight inches tall, this is a perennial spreading ground cover. There are large leaves and tiny whitish flowers clustered on spikes. There are patches of stalks. Leaflets are fan-shaped. Flowers are bisexual. There is a slight vanilla fragrance to the dried plants. Bloom season is between April and July.

Growing Guide

Sweet after death prefers to grow in partial shade or full shade in moist rich soils. It should be propagated by seed or by division of the roots.


This native is found in the states of California, Oregon, and Washington. It is seen in stream banks and moist forests.

Herbal Remedy

Native Americans have used sweet after death as an emetic, a hair wash, and a treatment for tuberculosis. The leaves were used in preparations for these remedies. The roots were dried and shredded, made into an infusion, and this used for a cataract treatment.


Other uses have been to dry the plant and hang for a mosquito and fly repellent. Decoctions of the plant can be used as a floor wash and furniture was for bedbugs and lice. The hair wash was made from an infusion of the leaves.


Kingdom – Plantae- Plants Subkingdom – Tracheobionta- Vascular plants Superdivision – Spermatophyta- Seed plants Division – Magnoliophyta- Flowering plants Class – Magnoliopsida- Dicotyledons Subclass – Magnoliidae Order – Ranunculales Family – Berberidaceae- Barberry family Genus – Achlys DC.- achlys Species – Achlys triphylla (Sm.) DC.- sweet after death

Source: NPIN, PlantsDatabase, Plants for a Future

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