Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Black Cohosh, Cimicifuga racemosa, aka: Black bugbane or Black snakeroot

What a difference a few days make. The flower stalk of the black cohosh is in full bloom and emits a very nice fragrance. I was surprised that a sweet strong smell emanated from the flowers. At first I thought something else was blooming but there was nothing close to the cohosh so I stuck my nose closer to the flower spike and voila. I previously didn't notice the scent when the flowers first started to open.

Our Black Cohosh, Cimicifuga racemosa is just starting to bloom. It is in the Ranunculaceae family so it is not coincidental that it blooms when the Anemones are also in flower. The flower stalk is over 4 (54 inches) feet tall at this time with dark purple almost black stems and dark green-purple attractively shaped tripinnate (Divided into pinnae that are subdivided into smaller leaflets, as in many ferns)leaves. Quite an attractive and elegant plant for a dappled light spot. This is the best it's been since we planted it about 5 years ago.

The roots and rhizomes of the plant was used for many many years as a treatment for menopausal symptoms. Here's a site from the NIH which has more information about Black Cohosh and symptoms of menopause.


Blogger Connie said...

It is quite a "tall and handsome" looking plant. :-)

12:01 PM  
Blogger DeeMom said...

Lovely pictures of the Black Cohosh, in dappled light… Ki>

Love the added history and site as well… ;)

3:37 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Connie,
Like your avatar the cohosh is indeed a tall plant. It has done especially well this year. The flowers are not very big and the plant is rather dark so it doesn't stand out much but nothing else is blooming around it so it makes a quietly elegant statement. Thanks for your comment.


Hi Deemom,
It's planted in my little native plant garden under some redbuds which provides quite a bit of shade. But the plant seems to be happy in all that shade.

There's so much information on the web it's easy to look up interesting facts (and fiction?) on almost any plant. I'm glad blogger made it easy to link a web site. We live in such a great time when access to a wealth of information is so easy to obtain but I think my poor brain is being overloaded and completely overwhelmed. Thanks for visiting.

6:42 PM  
Blogger Ruth Welter said...

Ki, who knew these beauties had properties that would help menopause. That is really cool.

5:00 AM  
Blogger lisa said...

I've always wanted one of these, and you've reminded me why!

8:43 AM  
Blogger Annie in Austin said...

That's a tall plant, Ki - I grew Black cohosh in Illinois but it used to top out at 4-feet. I like that shady, dappled look in your photo.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

8:55 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Ruth,
I knew it had pharmacological properties because I planted it once before and did some research on the plant. Surprising just how many plants do have drug properties like St. John's wort, willow bark, echinacea etc.


Hi Lisa, it is a worthy plant to have in a shaded location. Just don't despair if it doesn't appear too robust in the first year.


You're right Annie. I went out and measured the plant. From ground to the very tip, it measures 54", 4 1/2 feet. It seemed taller when I was taking pictures of it. I guess I was a little scrunched trying to get all of the plant or keeping clear of the redbud branches so it seemed taller.

That north facing side of the house got very little light because of the neighbor's giant silver maple tree and our small oak tree provided additional shade. What those trees didn't shade the two redbuds, previously three, created heavy shade even with quite a bit of pruning so it turned out to be a perfect location for all the shade and partial shade loving plants. I do like the dappled light too.

Having planted so heavily with trees and shrubs, in a few years I think our whole yard will soon be dappled light only. ;)

10:01 AM  
Blogger Blackswamp_Girl said...

Ki, that's gorgeous. I have three 'Hillside Black Beauty' and they have that same smell. I got the HBB's because of the darkness, but lately I've really started to appreciate the greener ones with dark edges like yours more, though. One plant vendor describes it as "a cross between phlox paniculata and ripe grapes," and I think that's almost right.

7:24 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Kim, this was a nameless variety we bought from an old gent who had a wonderful nursery and sold tiny plants very cheaply. I think we bought the cohosh for 99 cents. Unfortunately he died a few years back. He was an eccentric character. Always wore a white long sleeved dress shirt and stained khaki pants and always had a grizzled 3 days growth of beard.

Not the best fragrance in the world but surprisingly good and strong for a weedy sort of plant. I think the description of the smell is close...more phlox and less grape.

Thanks for visiting.

4:46 AM  
Blogger kate said...

Hi Ki,

You must have your Cimicifuga in good locations. The flower is gorgeous. My two have only ever reached about 3 feet and this year, both refused to bloom. I think the maple trees are taking all the soil nutrients. I don't want to move them though. I tried moving another plant and it died.

Great photograph!

8:12 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Kate,
Although the cohosh is under trees the soil remains fairly moist and since I was too lazy last fall some of the leaves remained on the ground all year. I guess the decomposing leaves are nutrient rich so that may have had an effect on the plant. I'll shred the leaves this year and see if that doesn't produce an even better result.

Thanks for your comment.

7:24 PM  

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