Actaea pachypoda

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: white baneberry 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Ranunculaceae
Native Range: Eastern North America
Zone: 3 to 8
Height: 1.50 to 2.50 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Fruit: Showy


Best grown in moist, organically rich, humusy, well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Soils should not be allowed to dry out, but need good drainage to prevent wet conditions from developing. Self-seeding may occur in optimum growing conditions where the berries fall to the ground. If naturalization is desired, berries may be picked and immediately planted into the ground as soon as they ripen in order to promote colonial spread.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Actaea pachypoda, commonly known as white baneberry, is a Missouri native perennial that typically grows to 30” tall and is primarily cultivated in woodland and shade gardens for its attractive white berries and astilbe-like foliage. It naturally occurs in deep woods, north-facing wooded slopes, bluff bases and ravines in the eastern part of Missouri (Steyermark). Ternately-compound leaves with toothed leaflets usually remain attractive through most of the growing season. Tiny white flowers appear in spring in short, oblong terminal clusters atop long greenish stems rising above the foliage. Flowering stems thicken after bloom and turn an attractive red as pea-sized white berries develop in summer in elongated clusters. The berries are extremely poisonous if eaten, hence the common name of baneberry. Each berry has a distinctive small dark purplish spot (formed by the flower stigma) which gives rise to another common name of doll’s eyes. Berry toxicity probably is the main reason why wildlife seems to ignore the fruit, with the berry clusters typically persisting on the plants and providing ornamental interest until frost.

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

Specific epithet means with a thick foot (stalk).


No serious insect or disease problems. Foliage decline may occur in hot summer climates such as the St. Louis area, particularly if soils are allowed to dry out but also if soils become too wet from periods of heavy rain. Berries are extremely poisonous if ingested, and consideration should be given to avoid planting this species in areas frequented by young children.


Woodland or shade gardens. Native plant gardens. Shady border areas.