Actaea matsumurae 'White Pearl'
Common Name: bugbane
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Ranunculaceae
Zone: 4 to 9
Height: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: August to September
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy, Good Cut

Culture

Easily grown in humusy, organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Best in part shade. Plants seem to grow well in average garden soils as long as soils are kept consistently moist. Foliage tends to scorch and otherwise depreciate if grown in full sun and/or if soils are allowed to dry out. Best sited in a location sheltered from strong winds. This is a slow-to-establish, rhizomatous plant which, under favorable conditions, can slowly naturalize to form an impressive colony.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Actaea matsumurae, commonly called Kamchatra bugbane or Japanese bugbane, is an herbaceous perennial that grows to 3-4’ tall. It is native to Mongolia, eastern Russia and Japan. It features ferny, deeply-cut, deep green, 2-3 ternate leaves which form an attractive foliage clump to 1.5-2.5’ tall. Arching, unbranched flowering stems rise above the foliage clump in late summer to early/mid autumn to a height of 3-4’ tall bearing long, fluffy, extremely showy, bottlebrush-like terminal spires (racemes to 20” long) of fragrant, apetulous, creamy white flowers. Flowers bloom from late summer to early autumn. It is one of the last of the bugbanes to bloom. Flowers are followed by black berries which are toxic to humans if ingested.

Genus name is the Latin name adopted by Linnaeus from Pliny.

Specific epithet honors Jinzo Matsumura, a 12th century Japanese botanist who taught at Tokyo University.

The bugbane part of the common name of this plant is in reference to its odoriferous insect repellant properties (originally part of the genus Cimicifuga which derives from the Latin words cimex meaning bug and fugo meaning flee).

‘White Pearl’ is a cultivar which features white flowers followed by black berries. Foliage typically grows to 3’. Arching foxtail-like flower panicles rise above the foliage to 5’ tall. In comparison to the species, this cultivar has larger flower spikes and typically blooms later into fall. ‘White Pearl’ was originally named as a cultivar of Cimicifuga simplex, was subsequently reclassified as a cultivar of Actaea simplex before finally being reclassified yet again as a cultivar of Actaea matsumurae.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problem. When in bloom, flower spires usually do not require staking, but may benefit from some support particularly if not growing in a sheltered location. Flower spires tend to lean toward bright light, particularly when plants are grown in substantial shade. Leaf margins may brown up (scorch) and growth may slow down if soils are not kept consistently moist.

Garden Uses

Flower spires add architectural height to shaded borders, shade gardens, woodland gardens, cottage gardens or naturalized areas. Ferny foliage provides excellent texture and color to the landscape. Best in groups, although single plants have good specimen value once established.