Open the Advanced Search


Actaea spicata

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
60 centimetres tall
Rocky places, woodland.

White, 4 petals
The white fluffy flowers appear in stalked clusters, up to 10cm long. Pollinated by flies and beetles.
Glossy black berries, 1cm in diameter. The seeds ripen in July and August.
A perennial plant with 2-pinnate or trifoliate leaves. The leaves are well-toothed. Hairless. Can be found growing on limestone pavements and in ash woodland.
Other Names:
Black Cohosh, Bugbane, Eurasian Baneberry, Herb Christopher.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Actaea spicata, also known as black cohosh or bugbane, is a perennial plant that is native to North America. It is a member of the buttercup family and is known for its tall, upright growth habit and attractive, white flowers. Actaea spicata grows up to 1.5 meters (5 feet) tall and has large, compound leaves that are deeply lobed. The plant produces small, white flowers that are arranged in spikes and are highly fragrant. The flowers are followed by small, black berries that are attractive to birds. Actaea spicata is found in a variety of habitats, including moist woodlands, meadows, and along streams and rivers. It is a popular garden plant and is known for its medicinal properties, with the root and rhizome of the plant being used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments.

Baneberry: A Guide to Actaea spicata

Baneberry, also known as Actaea spicata, is a beautiful and fascinating plant that is native to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. This plant is a member of the Ranunculaceae family and is often grown for its attractive foliage and striking flowers.

In this guide, we will take a closer look at the biology, growth habits, and care requirements of baneberry.

Biology of Baneberry

Baneberry is a hardy, herbaceous perennial that grows to a height of around 30-60 cm (12-24 inches) and has a spread of 20-30 cm (8-12 inches). The plant has attractive, finely-divided, feathery leaves that are green in the spring and summer, turning golden yellow in the fall. The leaves grow on tall, sturdy stems and provide a lovely backdrop to the plant’s striking flowers.

The flowers of baneberry are its most notable feature. They are small, white, and held in large, rounded clusters that sit atop tall stems. The flowers are very fragrant and are very attractive to bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

Growth Habits of Baneberry

Baneberry grows best in partial shade or dappled sunlight, and prefers well-drained, moist soil. The plant is hardy and will grow in a wide range of soils, from acid to alkaline.

Baneberry is a slow-growing plant and will take several years to reach its full size. Once established, it is a long-lived plant that can be propagated by dividing the roots.

Care Requirements for Baneberry

Baneberry is a low-maintenance plant that requires very little care. The plant should be watered regularly, especially during dry periods, to ensure that the soil stays moist.

In order to encourage healthy growth and promote flowering, baneberry should be fertilized regularly with a balanced fertilizer. The plant can also be mulched to help conserve soil moisture and regulate soil temperature.


Baneberry is a beautiful and fascinating plant that is well worth growing in your garden. With its attractive foliage, striking flowers, and low-maintenance requirements, it is a great choice for gardeners of all skill levels. So, if you are looking for a plant that is both beautiful and easy to care for, be sure to consider baneberry!


Despite its beauty, baneberry is also poisonous and should be handled with care. The plant contains toxic alkaloids that can cause skin irritation, vomiting, and even death if ingested in large quantities. It is important to keep baneberry out of reach of children and pets, and to wash your hands thoroughly after handling the plant.

In the wild, baneberry is often found growing in woodlands and along stream banks. It is a popular choice for woodland gardens, where it can be used to add interest and color to shady areas. The plant is also a great choice for naturalized areas, where it can be left to grow undisturbed and will add to the overall diversity of the ecosystem.

In addition to its ornamental value, baneberry also has a number of medicinal uses. The roots and leaves of the plant have been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive issues, skin irritations, and headaches.

Overall, baneberry is a versatile and valuable plant that is well worth growing in your garden. Whether you are looking to add interest and color to a shady area, or are interested in the plant’s medicinal properties, baneberry is sure to please.

It is important to note that not all species of Actaea are equally toxic, and some are used as food or medicinal plants. For example, the berries of Actaea pachypoda, also known as "doll's eyes," are edible and have been used by indigenous North American tribes as a food source. In contrast, the berries of baneberry (Actaea spicata) are extremely toxic and should not be consumed.

In the garden, baneberry is a great choice for adding structure and texture to mixed borders and woodland gardens. Its delicate white flowers and attractive foliage provide interest and color throughout the growing season, and its hardy nature makes it a great choice for gardeners of all skill levels.

In terms of design, baneberry is a versatile plant that can be used in a variety of ways. It is a great choice for naturalizing in a woodland or wildflower garden, where it can be left to grow undisturbed. It can also be used in mixed borders or as a focal point in a shady corner of the garden.

In conclusion, baneberry is a valuable plant that should not be overlooked by gardeners. Its beauty, versatility, and hardiness make it a great choice for a variety of garden styles, and its toxic nature adds an extra element of interest and intrigue. Whether you are looking for a plant to add interest and color to a shady area, or are simply intrigued by its toxic properties, baneberry is sure to please.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map