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Actaea racemosa

Common Name(s):
Black cohosh, Black snakeroot
Herbs, Native Plants, Perennials, Wildflowers

Actaea racemosa, commonly called black cohosh, is an upright, native perennial. It typically grows to a total height (foliage plus flowering spikes) of 4-6’, but under optimum conditions can reach 8’. Its rootstocks are used medicinally.

The common name of bugbane is in reference to the odoriferous insect repellant properties of this plant. Cohosh comes from an Algonquin word meaning rough in reference to the appearance of plant rhizomes.

Synonymous with and formerly known as Cimicifuga racemosa. All plants in the genus Cimicifuga have recently been transferred to the genus Actaea.

Regions:  Mountain, Piedmont

Seasons of Interest: 

  Blooms:  Summer            Nut/Fruit/Seed:   Late summer 

Wildlife Value:  This plant is highly resistant to damage from deer.  It is a host plant for the Azure butterfly.  

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems: Rust and leaf spot are occasional problems of this plant. Its foliage generally does not need staking, but taller flower spires may need some support. Flower spires tend to bend toward bright light, particularly when plants are grown in substantial shade. Leaf margins may brown up (scorch) and growth may slow down if soils are not kept consistently moist.

Summer, fall
3-8 ft.
Flower Color:
Black cohosh has Astilbe-like, deeply cut, tripinnate foliage and is an attractive deep green. It has a slender stem with 2 or 3 large compound leaves. Its leaflets are mostly egg-shaped, rounded or somewhat pointed at the base. It is cleft or sharply toothed on the margins.
Black cohosh has small, numerous, creamy white, fragrant flowers that appear in late summer to early fall in long, terminal racemes resembling fluffy spires (typically 1-2’ long) rising well above the foliage on wiry stems. Each flower consists largely of a tassel-like group of white stamens with a pistol in the center. It has no true petals. Sepals drop off as the flower opens. This plant has small, dry seed pods. The flower has an unpleasant odor.
Black cohosh is easily grown in average, medium moisture soils in part shade to full shade. It prefers humusy, organically rich, moisture-retentive soils. The foliage tends to scorch and otherwise depreciate if soils are allowed to dry out. Best sited in locations sheltered from strong winds. This is a slow-to-establish plant.
Life Cycle:
host plant, wildflower, herb, shade, perennial, butterflies

NCCES plant id: 2524

Cimicifuga racemosa Cimicifuga racemosa