Wildflowers of the United States

Home Journal Family Index - All States Photo Albums News About Privacy

Black Cohosh, Black Bugbane, Black Baneberry, Black Snakeroot, Fairy Candle - Cimicifuga racemosa


Family: Ranunculaceae - Buttercup family Genus Common Name: Bugbane Native Status: NativeDicot Perennial Herb
Cimicifuga racemosa - Black Cohosh, Black Bugbane, Black Baneberry, Black Snakeroot, Fairy Candle. Syn. Actaea racemosa. Black Cohosh is well-known for medicinal uses; as with many plants with medicinal value, it is also poisonous if not used properly. The plant is up to about 8 or 10 feet tall, branching with several inflorescences on each plant. It is quite distinctive; I've read it described as “stately,” and I agree. It is found in eastern North America from Canada south to central Georgia in the United States.

Actaea racemosa was originally classified in the Actaea genus by Linnaeus, but Nuttall reclassifed it to Cimicifuga based on the follicles. However, a 1998 study by James A. Compton, Alastair Culham, and Stephen L. Jury, using DNA testing and other techniques, has recommended that the genus should be considered part of the Actaea genus. If considered separate, the Actaea genus is Baneberry with four species; the Cimicifuga genus is Bugbane containing six species. USDA uses the Actaea; ITIS.gov uses the Cimicifuga classification. When there is conflict, I use the ITIS classification. UPDATE 02/17/2016: ITIS has changed their classification of this species to Actaea sometime in the past few years. At some point I'll change this record on USWildflowers.com.

It is classified as Endangered in Illinois and Massachusetts.

Found in:
AL, AR, CT, DC, DE, GA, IA, IL, IN, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MO, MS, NC, NJ, NY, OH, PA, SC, TN, VA, WV

Leave comments on Cimicifuga racemosa at this link.
Cimicifuga racemosa

Distribution of Cimicifuga racemosa in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2017. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 24 Jun 2017). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

Search Our Database: Enter any portion of the Scientific, Common Name, or both.
Scientific name:
Common name:

Example: Enter "lob" in the common name field and you'll get all our species that have "lobelia" in the common name, as well as "sharp-lobed hepatica".

Do a general Google search of the entire site:



Follow on Twitter
Follow USWildflowers on Twitter




Site: Reflection Riding, Hamilton County, TN Date: 2011-May-27Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
lack Cohosh has terminal inflorescences on several branches on the upper stem. They are long, dense racemes of white blossoms.
Cimicifuga racemosa

Site: Reflection Riding, Hamilton County, TN Date: 2011-May-27Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
The individual blossoms of Black Cohosh have no petals, consisting of a large number of white stamens on long white filaments surrounding a single, sessile ovary.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Cimicifuga racemosa

Site: Reflection Riding, Hamilton County, TN Date: 2011-May-27Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
Black Cohosh can grow in large colonies in moist open forest areas and roadsides.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Cimicifuga racemosa

Site: Reflection Riding, Hamilton County, TN Date: 2011-May-27Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
The leaves are compound, both basal and alternating on the stem, making for colonies to be quite densely leafy. The margins of the leaflets are toothed.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Cimicifuga racemosa

Commercial / Cookie Notice

Looking for Wildflowers for a specific state? Check here:



All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer