Black cohosh

Black cohosh

For the past several years, whenever I walked down my driveway, I noticed and admired this plant.  I have wondered just what it was.  This summer it bloomed and I decided to identify it properly.  Turns out to be black cohosh (Actaea racemosa).  How wonderful!  This is one of those herbs that is so helpful to women in particular.  Here’s a picture of the raceme as it began blooming . . .

Black cohosh racemes

One of the black cohosh identifying features is the smell associated with the flowers — not so nice!  Another feature are the flowers which seem to be totally lacking in petals and sepals (which drop off as the flower opens).  Instead the flower is a mass of stamens with a single fat pistil.

Black cohosh flower

A third identifying characteristic is the leaf pattern — three stalks of three leaves which branch into threes.  And the third center leaf has two indentations.

Once I figured out this is a black cohosh plant, then I started investigating what part of it is useful medicinally.  It’s the root.  Well I certainly do not plan to dig up the only black cohosh plant I found to get its root.  I began looking for more black cohosh.  After lots of exploring I found another plant which turns out to be a clump of plants.  Good!  Now I have a choice of roots.

Meanwhile I found another plant with a raceme filled with buds.  I wondered if this could be black cohosh although the leaves were a much lighter shade of green – almost a lime green color.  After waiting a week or so, this is what I saw:

Black cohosh raceme

Another gorgeous, smelly set of flowers!  This, too, is a black cohosh plant.

There is a nearby slope which I have visited on occasion — most often during the spring season when the ephemerals are blooming.  This past spring I took photos of some plants there which intrigued me.  Plants which I hoped to identify some day.  I’ve been checking out the slope lately just to see if I can find anything new or interesting to identify.  Here are those same plants:

Black cohosh

Yes — you guessed it!  More black cohosh!  Obviously younger, as these plants have never bloomed.  So now I have a great supply of the plant and will be able to choose which one(s) to harvest and which to save for the future.

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3 Responses to Black cohosh

  1. carmen says:

    Were they growing in full shade or light shade? I found some but I am not sure if I have them planted in the right location. They receive little sun.

  2. Angelyn says:

    Some of the black cohosh is in partial shade along a woodland edge. Other plants are in full shade within the woods. I suspect your plants are in just the right place.


  3. Pingback: Black cohosh or something else? | Identify that Plant

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