Actaea podocarpa

Common Name: bugbane 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Ranunculaceae
Native Range: Eastern United States
Zone: 3 to 9
Height: 3.00 to 7.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 4.00 feet
Bloom Time: August to September
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy


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

Noteworthy Characteristics

Actaea podocarpa is native to moist woods in the Appalachian Mountains from Pennsylvania to Tennessee and Georgia. It is very similar in appearance to Actaea racemosa, except for very minor differences in the flowers and resulting fruits (A. racemosa flowers have one or rarely two pistils and A. podocarpa flowers have three or more pistils). Features ferny, deeply-cut, deep green, 2-3 ternate leaves with 3-lobed, oval to oblong leaflets, on branched stems which form an attractive foliage clump to 3-4’ tall. Flower stems rise well above the foliage clump to a height of 5-6’ bearing terminal, bottlebrush-like, branched racemes (to 20” long) of apetalous, fluffy, creamy white flowers. Flowers have no fragrance. Blooms in late summer to early autumn. Synonymous with and formerly known as Cimicifuga americana. All plants in the genus Cimicifuga have recently been transferred to the genus Actaea.

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

Specific epithet is in reference to the fruit being formed on a thick stalk.

Many plants in the genus Actaea are commonly called bugbane in reference to the odoriferous insect repellent properties attributed to most plants in the genus.


No serious insect or disease problems. When in bloom, the tall flower spires will benefit from staking or other support, particularly if plants are not sited in sheltered locations. 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.


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 throughout the growing season. Best in groups, although single plants have good specimen value once established.