Root Beer Plant
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Mari Williams, RN, CCM
Posted on: October 4, 2003

I am looking for a plant called "Root beer plant" that is the only name I have, it is reported to smell like root beer and or licorice.

According to our internal name cross-reference database, "root beer plant" is Piper auritum. It is also known as "sacred pepper", "mexican pepper" and, in Spanish, "hoja santa". This is a plant that we are propagating for introduction in a future catalogue, possibly starting with the 2005 catalogue.

I have also heard that Mexican tarragon also smells like licorice but I have not been able to locate it either.

We carry two types of this. By far the nicest variety is what we list in our catalogue as "Terragold sweet marigold" (listed under "M" herbs). This variety has a beautiful dense growth habit, dark green leaves, and a terrific anise or licorice scent and flavour. This is the variety grown and sold as "tarragon" by some of the larger hydroponic operations in the southern U.S. because it is much easier to grow than the true french tarragon.

The other variety is what we list as "sweet marigold". It is available in seed form (unlike Terragold), but it is not as sweet and as vigourous growing as Terragold. It is also listed under "M" herbs in our catalogue.

I have just redone the back garden, and at some point will put in a herb garden, but right now want the aromas for the back. I have flagstone type area with grass between the stones, that I am planting mint in so that when you walk on it the odor will drift up. Would like the same with root beer plant if possible. If won’t take the trodding on then at least want to get some planted near the area for the smell. I hope you can help. The local nursery is checking but so far nothing. I heard about this from a gardening video from I think cypress gardens in Florida. But the gardener just called it root beer plant. Did not give any other name.

Piper auritum cannot be grown in the manner you describe. It is a large plant with large leaves. It definitely requires more space.

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