Edible valerian has two subspecies. The eastern plants are ssp. ciliata, sometimes separated as Valeriana ciliata. John Fremont in the 1840s wrote that one of his companions found this to be "one of the most horrid foods he had ever put in his mouth". But Fremont came to enjoy it. This is often called tobacco root in the west. Individual plants can live as long as 300 years. In the west, subspecies edulis grows in mountainmeadows from 5000 feet elevation and up.