Black Cohosh – Actaea Racemosa

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Black Cohosh (Actea racemosa)  belongs to the  Buttercup family

Black cohosh is also known as Black snakeroot, Rattletop, and Mountain bugbane.  The plants of the Black Cohosh appear in early April along with the Blue Cohosh, but don’t flower until into the summer in late July-August.  The plants are bushy, about 3-6 feet tall, but not dense, and have a long wand that shoots up and terminate with a raceme or racemes of white flowers that are about 1 foot in length.  The leaf of the Black Cohosh, in contrast to the Blue Cohosh whose plant it resembles, has coarsely toothed leaves.  The root of this plant has medicinal value and is used for estrogen deficiency of menopause. Profuse on the property, it can be seen in the woods of the area.

Not everyone has the opportunity to dig up plants and plant them in their garden and I don’t recommend poaching.  We happened to discover many black cohosh plants on the property and found that they transplant well.  We wait, of course, until the fall.  The plants like rich soil in shade to filtered light.  Each of the flowers will produce seeds and from the looks of the flower, it is obvious that there will be many, many seeds!

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We have many plants which we have used to good advantage in flower beds, but we also have many plants on the property which make a very beautiful show when they flower at the same time as turk-cap lilies.

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About a month after the plant flowers seeds replace them.  Because we have so many plants available to us, we have not been tempted to propagate them by seed.  But, for the same reason we end up with many, many seeds each year.

There is another reason we don’t use seeds to propagate black cohosh.  One of the best books I have seen on growing and propagating wildflowers is by William Cullina and it is entitled, appropriately(!) Growing and Propagating Wildflowers of the United States and Canada. In a section of the book on germination Cullina explains that to germinate, the seeds of black cohosh need a period of 3-4 months of moist warmth, then a period of cold before germinating.  Since by the time the seeds are ready to harvest it is already cold weather here in the mountains, the seeds do not germinate the following spring but the following year.

To print a PDF page, click here: Black Cohosh

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