Red Baneberry, Actaea rubra

Red Baneberry

Actaea rubra

Sun Shade:
Bloom Time: Late Spring/Early Summer
Zones: 3, 4, 5
Soil Conditions: Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil Moisture: Moist, Medium
Color: White
Fragrance: Yes
Height: 1 - 2 feet
Spacing: 1 foot


Red Baneberry (Actaea rubra) is a perennial plant that is 1-3 feet tall and either unbranched or sparingly branched. The central stem and any secondary stems are light green, glabrous, and terete. Each plant has 1-4 alternate leaves that are widely spreading. Individual leaves are up to 1½ feet long and 1½ feet across (excluding the petiole); they are bi-pinnate or tri-pinnate, dividing into 3 primary leaflets and subdividing into 3-5 (rarely 7) ultimate leaflets. When tertiary leaflets are present, there are typically 3 secondary leaflets in each compound leaf. The ultimate leaflets (whether secondary or tertiary) are 1¼–3½ inches long, more or less ovate in shape, and coarsely toothed along their margins; some ultimate leaflets are sharply divided into 1-2 smaller lobes. The blooming period occurs during late spring or early summer, lasting about 3 weeks. The flowers have a rosy fragrance. Afterwards, fertile flowers are replaced by ovoid berries that become 6-8 mm. long at maturity. These berries are usually bright red and glossy at maturity, although there is a less common form of this plant that has white berries. Each berry contains a fleshy pulp and several seeds. Individual seeds are 3.0–3.5 mm. long, reddish brown, and wedge-shaped. The root system consists of a vertical rootstock with fibrous secondary rootlets below.

Habitats include moist to mesic woodlands, shady stream banks, and shaded areas where some seepage of ground water occurs. In Wisconsin, this plant is found in high quality natural areas where either deciduous trees or a mixture of deciduous trees and conifers occur. North of the state, it also occurs in conifer forests. Red Baneberry is able to survive occasional wildfires.

The preference is light to moderate shade, moist to mesic conditions, and a somewhat acidic soil consisting of sandy loam, loam, or clay-loam with decaying organic matter. The soil should contain abundant nitrogen, calcium, and other nutrients. The seeds are slow to germinate, typically taking 2 years or more under natural conditions.

Plant Notes and Herbal Uses
  All parts of this plant, including the fruit, are toxic to humans.
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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