Botanical: Cimicifuga racemosa (now known as Actaea)
Common: Blackberry Lily
General Characteristics: Black cohosh is an upright perennial which occurs in rocky woods. It typically grows to a total height (foliage plus flowering spikes) of 4-6', but under optimum conditions can reach 8'. Small, numerous, creamy white, fragrant flowers appear in late summer to early fall in long, terminal racemes resembling fluffy spires (typically 1-2' long) rising well above the foliage on wiry stems. Astilbe-like, deeply cut foliage is an attractive deep green.
This species has many medicinal uses. Traditionally, a tincture of the plant was used for bronchitis, chorea, fevers, rheumatism, snakebites, and many other ailments. Modern medicine has found the plant useful for strengthening female reproductive organs in lab rats. The plant has also shown anti-inflammatory properties. Foliage generally does not need staking, but taller flower spires may need some support. Flower spires tend to bend toward bright light, particularly when plants are grown in substantial shade. Leaf margins may brown up (scorch) and growth may slow down if soils are not kept consistently moist.