Black Snakeroot

Actaea racemosa Ranunculaceae

Other names

Black Cohosh

Growth habit


Native distribution

Native to the Finger Lakes Region, Ontario to MA, South to GA, TN, and MO


"A 3-6' tall plant with showy spires of white flowers in late summer. A good woodland garden plant, but can spread via rhizomes.
Light: part shade
Moisture and Soil: medium to moist soil"


Seed Treatment and Storage: cold/moist stratify"

Biocultural value

The Cherokee used black cohosh in a wide range of medicinal applications, including as an antirheumatic, laxative, diuretic, and tonic ingredient. The Haudenosaunee also used it to promote milk flow in lactating women and as a blood purifier. The Micmac and Penobscot both prescribed the root for kidney issues.

Wildlife value

Black cohosh flowers provide both nectar and pollen to insect visitors. Caterpillars of the Appalachian azure butterfly (Celastrina neglecta-major) feed exclusively on Black Cohosh, but the insect's range does not extend to the Cayuga Lake Basin. Mammalian and many insect herbivores steer clear of black cohosh's toxic foliage.



Poisonous description

Black cohosh contains the toxin protoanemonin and is poisonous in large doses.


Mundy Wildflower Garden, Comstock Knoll and Rhododendron Collection, Treman Woodland Walk

Source of plant

Bluebird Nursery Inc., Panfield Nurseries Inc., Shady Oaks Nursery, Sunny Border Nurseries


Beautiful, divided, fresh green leaves make a pleasing clump. The flowers are produced earlier in the season than those of other species; they are pure white branching bottle-brushes; late flowering stems are frequently produced. Blooming season is summer. Plants 5' tall, 2' wide.

USDA Hardiness Zone


Special characteristics

notable texture, flowering season