Black Cohosh, Actaea racemosa

Black Cohosh

Actaea racemosa

Sun Shade:
Bloom Time: Summer
Zones: 3, 4, 5
Soil Conditions: Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil Moisture: Medium, Moist
Color: White
Fragrance: Yes
Height: 4 - 6 feet
Spacing: 2 - 3 feet


Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa) is an upright perennial which occurs in rocky woods. It typically grows to a total height (foliage plus flowering spikes) of 4-6 feet, but under optimum conditions can reach 8 feet. Small, numerous, creamy white, fragrant flowers appear in late summer to early fall in long, terminal racemes resembling fluffy spires (typically 1-2 feet long) rising well above the foliage on wiry stems. Astilbe-like, deeply cut, tri-pinnate foliage is an attractive deep green.

The blooming period occurs during early to middle summer and lasts about 1½ months. The flowers have an odd unpleasant scent. Each flower is replaced by a small follicle about 1/3-inch long; this follicle has a beak that is very short and usually curved. Each follicle splits open along one side to release several seeds. These seeds are fairly smooth (not conspicuously scaly). The root system is rhizomatous and fibrous.

Habitat includes mesic deciduous woodlands (where Sugar Maple is often dominant) and the bases of bluffs along rivers. Black Cohosh is more common in flower gardens than the wild.

Easily grown in average, medium moisture soils in part shade to full shade. Prefers humusy, organically rich, moisture-retentive soils. Foliage tends to scorch and otherwise depreciate if soils are allowed to dry out. Best sited in locations sheltered from strong winds.

Plant Notes and Herbal Uses
  Black Cohosh has an odor that repels some insects.
  In the past the root was used to treat various conditions, ranging from snakebite and lung inflammations, to the pains of childbirth.
  Fairly drought tolerant.
  This plant requires plenty of space.
  This is a slow to establish plant.
Further Information

 Wisconsin Fruit Trees
 Wisconsin Edible Berry Shrubs
 Widsconsin Edible Plants-Eat On The Wild Side
 8 Dandelion Recipes
 Wisconsin Native Plant Nurseries

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