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ACTAEA racemosa

Image of Actaea racemosa

Gerald L. Klingaman

Family

Ranunculaceae

Botanical Name

ACTAEA racemosa

Plant Common Name

Black Baneberry, Black Bugbane

General Description

Tall, bottlebrush-like spikes of fragrant white flowers top this tall perennial's stems from midsummer to early fall. Black bugbane is a woodland perennial that forms a clump, native to the eastern United States.

The glossy dark green leaves are compound - having three leaflets each and attached in groups of three on a leaf stalk. The individual leaflets are oval but are irregularly toothed. Depending on climate, each stem forms a very long flowerspike from midsummer to as late as early fall. The thousands of tiny, white, fragrant flowers with many stamens open on the long spike for about one month's time. The fragrance is often regarded as unpleasant. The spent spikes remain attractive even after flowering ceases. Often there are additional, small flowerspikes that rise from the base of the main one. The fruits that subsequently form after being insect-pollinated are first green, then dry to become brown before opening to release seeds.

Grow black bugbane in partial shade in a fertile, moist soil that is rich in organic matter. It will tolerate full sun only in cooler summer regions and if soil moisture is constant. The wiry texture of this upright plant contrasts more rounded plants in the mixed shade border handsomely. Consider staking to prevent windstorms from toppling the plant, especially as it begins to bloom. It also has a deep root system and does not divide well, so only do so on plants that have been undisturbed for quite some time.

Selection 'Atropurpurea' has purple-tinted foliage in spring that becomes more green by the time the tall white flowerspikes develop in summer.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    3 - 8

  • Sunset Zone

    1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 17

  • Plant Type

    Perennial

  • Sun Exposure

    Partial Shade

  • Height

    4'-6' / 1.2m - 1.8m

  • Width

    2'-4' / 0.6m - 1.2m

  • Bloom Time

    Summer, Late Summer, Early Fall

  • Native To

    United States, Northeastern United States, Mid-Atlantic United States, Southeastern United States, South-Central United States

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Average

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Upright/Erect

  • Seasonal Interest

    Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White

  • Fruit Color

    Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Dark Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Feature Plant, Mixed Border

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Butterflies

  • Self-Sowing

    No