Black Cohosh

Cimicifuga racemosa

If you have ever walked down the supplement aisle in a health food store, you’ve probably heard of Black Cohosh.  The plant has long been harvested from the Appalachian Mountains for medicinal use, and even today the roots are still collected and sold for cash to the supplement industry.  The primary use of teas, pills, and extracts derived from black cohosh root is apparently in the treatment of menopausal symptoms and labor pain.

Black cohosh leaves in July

This is a tall understory plant (3 to 8 feet at full height!) with dark green, compound leaves that are held up by a long stalk.  The leaves are divided into threes. The smallest leaflets are lobed and sharply serrated. The leaves and stems are sometimes tinged with a deep burgundy color.

Black Cohosh
Black Cohosh blooming in late July at Glen Alton

In the summertime (late June/July), black cohosh puts up a tall stalk of small white flowers that might resemble a frilly, candlestick from a distance.  It is striking to see a mass of it in bloom, lighting up the shadows of the forest in summertime.

Black Cohosh survives transplanting quite well and is commercially available as a landscape plant for use in shade gardens. I have seen it sold under the name “bugbane” (because the odiferous flowers apparently have some insect-repelling qualities) and “snakeroot” (because it was once used to treat snakebites).  Another common name for it is fairy candles (because of the shape of the flower stalks).

Click on the photos below to see the slideshow.

Read about Blue Cohosh here.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Suzan Mauney says:

    I have this in my back yard and never knew what it was! I need you to come over and identify some of the stuff I have b/c I probably think alot of it is just weeds! Your photos and descriptions are very thorough and helpful.

    1. gloria says:

      Suz–you could be enjoying cohosh root tea this winter! Let me know if you try it 🙂
      Love to do a garden tour with you!

  2. Mary Beth Adams says:

    Black cohosh is one of my favorite forest plants — so distinctive, and I love the flower spikes. I successfully transplanted some to a shade garden at my house — lovely when it blooms!

    1. gloria says:

      Hi Mary Beth!
      I don’t have any of my own photos of the flowers yet, so give me a yell when you see them in bloom. I’ll go out and try to snap a photo to add to the gallery. I moved some into our woods a few years ago and it took a while, but they finally are coming up in several places. I’d love to have more of it in the understory of the forest around the house.

      Be well!

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