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Actaea racemosa

Actaea racemosa L.

 

Black Snakeroot, Black Baneberry, Black Bugbane, Black Cohosh, Fairy Candle

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae (from Stearn’s Botanical Latin)
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassMagnoliidaeIncludes magnolias, nutmeg, bay laurel, cinnamon, avocado, black pepper, and many others
OrderRanunculalesBasal (evolved earlier) eudicots, also called “true dicots”
FamilyRanunculaceaeButtercup family
GenusActaeaFrom ancient Greek, signifying a wet habitat and its leaves’ similarity to Sambucus leaves
SpeciesracemosaLatin for "has a raceme," or flower spike (from Stearn's Botanical Latin)

About plant names...

Black snakeroot is native to eastern North America.

Identification: Plants reach 10-24" (25-60 cm). On all of the baneberries, leaves often occur in groups of three, on thin stems, and are saw-toothed. White flowers form on tall stalks up to 8' (2.5 m) in height, with the flowering portions up to 20" (50 cm) tall.

Don’t confuse black snakeroot with the unrelated plant, Canadian black snakeroot. Both of these plants are found in eastern Canada and the eastern United States.

 

Actaea racemosa (Black Snakeroot, Black Baneberry, Black Bugbane, Black Cohosh, Fairy Candle)

7/6/2013 · Mike and Ellen’s, Shohola, PA
≈ 7 × 10" (16 × 25 cm)

Actaea racemosa (Black Snakeroot, Black Baneberry, Black Bugbane, Black Cohosh, Fairy Candle)

5/22/2010 · Garden in the Woods, Framingham, MA
≈ 31 × 21" (78 × 52 cm)

Some similar plants:

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Actaea racemosa

Actaea racemosa var. racemosa

Actaea rubifolia
Common Name

Black Snakeroot

Black Cohosh

Appalachian Bugbane
Plant Plants reach 10-24" (25-60 cm). Plants are 3-6' (91-182 cm) tall, rarely to 9' (2.7 m); and fast-growing. Plants are 12-55" (30-140 cm) tall.
Flowers White flowers form on tall stalks up to 8' (2.5 m) in height, with the flowering portions up to 20" (50 cm) tall.

Long, attractive, feathery-looking spikes 6-24" (15-60 cm) long. Individual flowers have 4-5 sepals and are about ⅜" (9.5 mm) in diameter. White flowers form long, attractive, feathery-looking spikes 6-24" (15-60 cm) long, straight or slightly curved. Individual flowers have 5 sepals and are about ⅜" (9.5 mm) in diameter.
Leaves Leaves often occur in groups of three, on thin stems, and are saw-toothed. Toothed, irregular in shape, in roughly triangular clusters tipped by a larger three-lobed leaflets. Leaflets are 1-4" (3-10 cm) long. Toothed, shaped like maple leaves. Leaflets are 6-12" (15-30 cm) long.
Fruit Black or dark brown seeds. Fruits are ⅛-¼" (6-9 mm) long, thick, and leathery. Fruits are ⅛" (3 mm) around, and reddish brown.
Range/ Zones

Habitats Rich soils in moist woods, ravines Rich, moist deciduous woods  
Type Wild Wild Wild
Occurrence Common Endangered in IL and MA Endangered

 

 
Sanicula canadensis
Common Name

Canadian Black Snakeroot
Plant Plants are 12-24" (30-60 cm) high. Stems are light green, sometimes furrowed.
Flowers Small clusters, greenish-white, not especially interesting.
Leaves In groups of three, and are less than 3" (7.6 cm) long.
Fruit Seed pods are about ½" (1.3 cm) in diameter, and resemble burrs, with small hooks.
Range/ Zones

Habitats Rich woods, open rocky woods, thickets
Type Wild
Occurrence Common

 

Edibility: Most members of the buttercup family, including other species of Actaea, are poisonous. Though black snakeroot is not considered a strong poison, its use for medicinal purposes is not adequately supported or refuted by scientific studies. (See the Wikipedia article below, or this article from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.) Liver damage has been reported in a few cases.

Online References:

Actaea racemosa on Wikipedia

Actaea racemosa on Discover Life

Actaea racemosa on the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program (PDF)

Actaea racemosa var. racemosa at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Actaea racemosa at the Plants of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Actaea racemosa on Erv Evans' site at the North Carolina State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (PDF)

Actaea racemosa description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 16 Aug 2013.

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Actaea racemosa (Black Snakeroot, Black Baneberry, Black Bugbane, Black Cohosh, Fairy Candle)

7/6/2013 · Mike and Ellen’s, Shohola, PA
≈ 5 × 8" (13 × 19 cm)

Actaea racemosa (Black Snakeroot, Black Baneberry, Black Bugbane, Black Cohosh, Fairy Candle)

7/6/2013 · Mike and Ellen’s, Shohola, PA
≈ 12 × 8" (31 × 21 cm)

Actaea racemosa (Black Snakeroot, Black Baneberry, Black Bugbane, Black Cohosh, Fairy Candle)

5/22/2010 · Garden in the Woods, Framingham, MA
≈ 3½ × 2½' (1.2 × 0.8 m)

Range:

About this map...