Actaea simplex (Atropurpurea Group) 'Brunette'
Common Name: bugbane
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Ranunculaceae
Zone: 3 to 8
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: Low
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Colorful


Easily grown in average, medium moisture soils in part shade to full shade. Prefers humusy, organically rich, moisture-retentive soils. Foliage tends to scorch and otherwise depreciate if soils are allowed to dry out. Best sited in locations sheltered from strong winds. This is a slow-to-establish plant.

Noteworthy Characteristics

‘Brunette’ is a bugbane cultivar that is noted for its bronze foliage. It typically grows to 3-4’ tall. Small, numerous, creamy white (sometimes with a pink tinge), strongly fragrant flowers appear in late summer to early fall in long, terminal racemes resembling fluffy spires (typically 1-1.5’ long) rising well above the foliage on upright, wiry stems. Astilbe-like, ternate foliage is an attractive deep bronze. Synonymous with and formerly known as Cimicifuga ramosa ‘Brunette’. All plants in the genus Cimicifuga have recently been transferred to the genus Actaea. The common name of bugbane is in reference to the odoriferous insect repellant properties of this plant. A. simplex plants are also sometimes commonly called cohosh which comes from an Algonquin word meaning rough in reference to the appearance of the plant rhizome. Plants in the Atropurpurea Group typically have purple to bronze tinted foliage.


No serious insect or disease problems. Rust and leaf spot are occasional problems. Foliage generally does not need staking, but taller flower spires may need some support. Flower spires tend to bend 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

Adds architectural height and late summer bloom to a shaded part of the border or shade garden. Also effective in woodland gardens, cottage gardens and naturalized areas. Best in groups, although single plants have good specimen value once established. White flower spires are generally more demonstrative in front of darker backgrounds. Bronze, ferny foliage provides excellent texture and color to the landscape throughout the growing season.