Actaea racemosa (Black Cohosh or Bugbane)
Actaea racemosa with bee

Zone: 3 to 8

Soil: Sand to loam

Light: part sun to shade

Bloom colour: White

Bloom period: Mid-summer

Height: 4 to 6 feet

Moisture: medium

Attracts: Bees, butterflies

Notes: Formerly known as Cimicifuga racemosa, Black cohosh is a great specimen plant for the shade garden. It is native to Ontario, New England, the mid-Atlantic states and the mid-west. It blooms for about four weeks in the middle of summer, which is unusual for a shade plant. The height quoted is a bit misleading because the foliage is only 2 -3 feet high and of similar width. The flower stalks, on top of which sit long white wands, double the height of the plant. The racemes are about a foot long. It takes several years for this plant to flower, but the foliage on its own is quite elegant. This plant could easily be placed in a wild or a manicured garden.

The plant needs a well-drained soil and prefers a rich soil that can retain moisture. It can be grown in a sandy soil as long as extra water is provided during a drought. In its natural setting, this plant grows happily under the light shade of a tree.

The plant is a host for caterpillars of the Spring Azure and the flowers provide nectar and pollen for bumblebees and hoverflies.

If you have good soil and a shady garden, then this plant would be wonderful addition. It is a stand-out plant with its architectural foliage and its tall flowers. It is rather rare to find this plant in a garden because it is expensive to buy. A native plant nursery will sell smaller and younger specimens that are much cheaper if you have the patience to wait a few years.

Another related species is Actaea pachypoda which is called Doll's eyes. It is not as grand as Black Cohosh, but it is notable for its white berries. It requires a moist soil.

Black Cohosh with bumblebee
Black Cohosh foliage
Actaea flower
Black Cohosh
Black Cohosh Flowerheads
Black Cohosh Flowerheads
Bugbane en masse