Actaea simplex (Atropurpurea Group) 'Hillside Black Beauty'
Common Name: bugbane 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Ranunculaceae
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 4.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 4.00 feet
Bloom Time: September to October
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize
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

Actaea simplex, commonly called bugbane, is a herbaceous, rhizomatous perennial native to forest edges, scrublands, grassy slopes, and other open habitats in eastern and central China, Japan, Korea, and far eastern Russia. Mature plants typically reach a total height of 3-4’ with a 2-3' spread. Small, numerous, creamy white, strongly fragrant flowers appear in late summer to early fall in long, terminal racemes resembling fluffy spires (typically 1-2’ long) rising above the foliage on upright, wiry stems. Astilbe-like, deeply cut, ternately compound foliage is an attractive deep green. Synonymous with and formerly known as Cimicifuga simplex.

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

Specific epithet means simple or unbranched.

The common name of bugbane is in reference to the odoriferous insect repellent properties of this plant.

‘Hillside Black Beauty’ is noted for its ferny, coppery-purple foliage. Foliage clump typically grows to 2.5’ tall, but fall flowering spikes bring overall plant height to 4-6’ tall. Synonymous with and formerly known as Cimicifuga ramosa ‘Hillside Black Beauty’. Part of the Atropurpurea Group which includes cultivars that exhibit purple coloration of the stems, leaves, and inflorescences.


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.


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. Deep green foliage provides excellent texture and color to the landscape throughout the growing season.