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.
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.
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.