Actaea Species, Black Cohosh, Black Snakeroot, Bugbane, 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:Actaea gyrostachya
Synonym:Actaea monogyna
Synonym:Actaea orthostachya
Synonym:Botrophis actaeoides
Synonym:Cimicifuga racemosa



Water Requirements:

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

Sun Exposure:

Full Shade


Grown for foliage


Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us


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)

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us



Bloom Color:

White/Near White

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Late Spring/Early Summer

Mid Summer

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

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


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Birmingham, Alabama

Houston, Alabama

Lemoore, California

Lemoore Station, 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

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

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

Port Angeles East, Washington

Sumas, Washington

Cleveland, Wisconsin

Oconomowoc, Wisconsin

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

This perennial is native to our area.


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 ... read more


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.


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.


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.