Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Black Cohosh, Black Snakeroot, Fairy Candles
Actaea racemosa

Family: Ranunculaceae (ra-nun-kew-LAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Actaea (ak-TEE-uh) (Info)
Species: racemosa (ray-see-MO-suh) (Info)

Synonym:Cimicifuga racemosa

13 vendors have this plant for sale.

43 members have or want this plant for trade.


4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Shade


Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer
Mid Summer

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Soil pH requirements:
Unknown - Tell us

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

Seed Collecting:
Unknown - Tell us

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There are a total of 30 photos.
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9 positives
5 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Ted_B On Oct 16, 2014, Ted_B from Birmingham, AL (Zone 8a) wrote:

One of the hardier, more forgiving Appalachian shade plants. Succeeds in a southern climate in a fertile, mulched loamy soil, so long as adequate soil moisture is maintained and exposure to direct sunlight minimized.

Blooms are tall and striking.

Avoid watering aerial parts of the plant if possible.

Positive cottelpg On Jun 20, 2014, cottelpg from Hamilton, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:

This is a beautiful plant for the back of a shade perennial border. One common name is fairy candles and it lives up to this name as the white spikes look like a candelabra shining in woodland shade. The display begins to be attractive when the plant is in bud and continues as the flowers open from the bottom of the spike moving up. The astilbe-like foliage is attractive after bloom. The plant is highly deer resistant. It likes an organic acid soil. I have experienced no disease or insect problems. I like the native species much better than the hybrids, which have a purple foliage unsuitable for the woodland "feel" I like. The plant is a bit slow to establish and will not bloom until the second year. It is well worth the wait.

Neutral Aldythe On Aug 1, 2013, Aldythe from North Bay
Canada wrote:

I planted black snakeroot "chocoholic" two years ago in a mostly shady spot in my zone 4 Northern Ontario garden. It has yet to bloom, but seems to otherwise be doing well. Any suggestions? Thank you.

Positive joraines On Mar 7, 2013, joraines from Inman, SC wrote:

Ordered this from a nursery in Maine and worried it would not do well in our hot, hot summers. Planted them in partial shade and kept them watered through the summer and mulched. I had read they would not bloom until well established but last year, one of them put up a solitary but beautiful bloom. This is the third year so hoping it will continue to establish and do well.

Positive nosopradio On Jul 18, 2011, nosopradio from Syosset, NY wrote:

I have 3 of these. When planting, make sure roots are well covered and apply mulch. Also, before winter, I would make sure the plant is mulched after it dies back. The plant does NOT like to dry out. Also, it prefers shade. It does survive with some morning sun, which I have on 1 plant - but I am in the Northeast. I don't know if it would survive with morning sun in the South - if in the South I imagine it should be in total shade only.
I have 2 in total shade and it does great.
Again, I can't stress how important it is not to let it dry out.
Very nice dark leaves and the plumes are pretty.
Looks great against a light background, or with lighter-colored plants.

Positive mslehv On Feb 27, 2011, mslehv from Columbus, OH (Zone 5b) wrote:

The plant does need ample light. Before our trees cut down on the light, flower spikes would reach 8'. With lesser light the spikes tend to grow more horizontally seeking it.

Neutral purplekitty On Feb 2, 2010, purplekitty from Wildomar, CA wrote:

Some studies have shown that ingestion of this plant can cause liver complications in some individuals. Just a bit of FYI for the possible dangers associated. I will update when I find out the quantity that was tested.

Neutral grrrlgeek On Feb 16, 2009, grrrlgeek from Grayslake, IL (Zone 5a) wrote:

Variety racemosa (Black Bugbane) is native to most of the eastern half of the US and Canada. Endangered in Illinois and Massachusetts.

Positive EllenM3 On Jun 4, 2008, EllenM3 from Alden, NY wrote:

It took a few years before mine bloomed but now it's beautiful so be patient.

Neutral missgarney On Jun 25, 2006, missgarney from Cullowhee, NC (Zone 6b) wrote:

This perennial is native to our area.

Positive MN_Darren On Aug 11, 2004, MN_Darren from Saint Paul, MN wrote:

Very easy, very attractive and fairly adaptable. I have about 40 square feet covered with it, and it only took about 6 years to get that large. As far as I can tell, it does not like direct sun. If it is getting any amount of sun, it takes extra water to keep it alive. The area where I have had the best luck is on the North side of our garage wall, where it gets bright, indirect sun and NO direct sun at all. Tree roots should dry the area out, but for some reason this soil is always moist and it is the last place to thaw in the spring, so it is almost always buried in a layer of ice until almost the end of March. It reseeds freely and seedlings can be moved easily. I have found that the seedlings do better than divisions. The smell is strong and peculiar--sweet, but hay-like, with a hint of freshly cooked corn tortillas. Strong smells are fairly rare in the ranunculaceae family. The only other one I know of is Thalictrum flavum, which has a similar smell. Bees love both of these and seem to be intoxicated as they plow through the fluffy flowers.

Positive garyon On May 2, 2004, garyon from Syracuse, NY wrote:

Received our plant as a division from a friend who had grown it for years: I have since divided the plant once in ten years, resulting in two small plants.

It has been given no special care and has grown fairly well in a shady location.

It is an attractive plant even without the flower spikes. The fragrance, however is not pleasant to me. On first detecting it in the garden, I thought someone was nearby smoking pot.

Neutral dbuckley On Jul 31, 2002, dbuckley wrote:

I have just recently purchased a "Black Snakeroot" from a local greenhouse here in Maine. I thought it was so unique. It is very tall and thin so I hope it will withstand the wind and Maine winters. I have transplanted it in shade near the house.

Positive lupinelover On May 6, 2002, lupinelover from Grove City, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:

Plant takes ideal conditions for it to survive; very deep organic-enriched loam is perfect for it. Will not survive in standing water, but quickly dies if it dries out.

Flowers are extremely fragrant; very sweet aroma. Many people cannot tolerate the smell; others find it very pleasant. A large stand of plants will fill the air with its smell for a long distance.

Foliage is lacy and very elegant.

Species has medium green leaves; there are dark and bronze cultivars available.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

, (2 reports)
Birmingham, Alabama
Houston, Alabama
Lemoore, California
Los Altos, California
Caseyville, Illinois
Logansport, Indiana
Prospect, Kentucky
Falmouth, Maine
Skowhegan, Maine
Bridgewater, Massachusetts
Osterville, Massachusetts
Grand Haven, Michigan
Novi, Michigan
Royal Oak, Michigan
Lake George, Minnesota
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Marietta, Mississippi
Piedmont, Missouri
Frenchtown, New Jersey
Plainfield, New Jersey
Scotch Plains, New Jersey
Alden, New York
Buffalo, New York
Croton On Hudson, New York
Sag Harbor, New York
Syracuse, New York
Charlotte, North Carolina
Cullowhee, North Carolina
Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Grassy Creek, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina
Cleveland, Ohio
Columbus, Ohio
Hamilton, Ohio
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Salem, Oregon
Birdsboro, Pennsylvania
Millersburg, Pennsylvania
Inman, South Carolina
Rock Hill, South Carolina
Morrison, Tennessee
Viola, Tennessee
Austin, Texas
Houston, Texas
Alexandria, Virginia
Leesburg, Virginia
Springfield, Virginia
Winchester, Virginia
Port Angeles, Washington
Cleveland, Wisconsin

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