Mountain Bugbane Actaea podocarpa

☠ Toxic to humans
🐾 Toxic to pets
🌸 Not blooming
🍪 Not edible
‍🌱 Hard-care
American bugbane


Actaea podocarpa, commonly known as Black Cohosh, is a flowering perennial plant that typically grows in rich woodlands. It features a basal clump of compound leaves, which means that each leaf is made up of multiple smaller leaflets arranged on a common stem. The leaves are often deep green, and each leaflet is sharply toothed and sometimes almost fern-like in appearance. During the blooming period, Black Cohosh produces tall, wand-like spikes atop which are small, fluffy white flowers. These flowers are tightly packed in elongated clusters, and they emit a slightly sweet and musty fragrance. The spikes bearing flowers rise above the foliage and make the plant stand out in its native shady environment. After the flowering period, Black Cohosh will often develop small, fleshy fruits. The plant is known for its upright habit, with the leaves and flower spikes creating a striking vertical element in the shade garden. Its overall appearance is one of feathery elegance and delicate texture, making it a fine choice for naturalistic plantings or as an accent in a shaded border.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Family


    • Synonyms

      Mountain Bugbane, Southern Bugbane, Black Cohosh

    • Common names

      Cimicifuga podocarpa, Actaea podocarpa var. podocarpa.

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      Actaea podocarpa, commonly known as Black Cohosh, contains toxic compounds that can be harmful if ingested. The roots and rhizomes are particularly concentrated with these toxins. Symptoms of poisoning from Black Cohosh may include stomach upset, cramps, headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, tremors, visual disturbances, and lowered heart rate. In severe cases, it can lead to liver problems. The severity of symptoms may depend on the quantity ingested and the individual's sensitivity to the plant's compounds.

    • To pets

      Actaea podocarpa, commonly known as Black Cohosh, is toxic to pets if ingested. The plant contains several compounds that can cause gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting and diarrhea. Other possible symptoms include abdominal pain, cardiac abnormalities, seizures and muscle tremors. The severity of the symptoms can vary depending on the size of the pet and the amount of plant material consumed. It is important to keep pets away from Black Cohosh and seek veterinary care immediately if you suspect your pet has ingested any part of this plant.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Flower color


    • Height

      2-3 feet (0.6-0.9 meters)

    • Spread

      2 feet (0.6 meters)

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area

      North America


  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Ecosystem support - Actaea podocarpa, commonly known as black cohosh, provides habitat and food for a variety of insects and animals within its ecosystem.
    • Pollinator attraction - The flowers of black cohosh attract bees and other pollinators, which are vital for the pollination of many plant species.
    • Aesthetic value - With its tall white flower spikes, black cohosh adds beauty and height to woodland gardens and shaded landscape areas.
    • Shade tolerance - Black cohosh is well-suited for planting in shady areas where other plants might struggle to thrive.
    • Soil stabilization - The root system of black cohosh can help prevent soil erosion, particularly in wooded or sloped areas.
    • Biodiversity - By introducing black cohosh into a garden or restoration area, it can help increase the biodiversity of plant life.

  • medicalMedical Properties

    This plant is not used for medical purposes.

  • windAir-purifying Qualities

    This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.

  • leavesOther Uses

    • The dried seed pods of Actaea podocarpa, commonly known as Black Cohosh, can be used in decorative floral arrangements, adding a unique and textural component.
    • The roots, when dried and crushed, have been used historically as an insect repellent, particularly against moths in clothing storage areas.
    • Black Cohosh plants can be used as a natural dye, offering a range of colors from the roots and flowers for fabrics and wool.
    • The plant has been included in the making of ceremonial objects by indigenous tribes, valuing its supposed spiritual significance.
    • Gardeners may use Black Cohosh as a companion plant, as it is believed to deter some pests that would otherwise attack nearby plants.
    • Black Cohosh is sometimes used in landscape restoration projects, helping to re-establish native plant communities.
    • The dense foliage of Black Cohosh can provide a natural privacy screen in garden settings or between properties.
    • Actaea podocarpa can act as a soil stabilizer, its root system helping to prevent erosion on slopes or riverbanks.
    • The plant can be employed in sensory gardens due to its distinctive tall, flowering spires that add both visual and textural interest.
    • Extracts from the foliage have been explored as a potential organic herbicide for controlling invasive weed species.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    The Black Cohosh is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    The Black Cohosh is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Mystery: Actaea podocarpa, commonly known as Black Cohosh, has a dark, mystifying appearance, which often symbolizes the unknown and mysterious aspects of nature.
    • Femininity: Black Cohosh has been traditionally used to relieve symptoms related to women's health, especially menopause, which has led to its association with feminine strength and healing.
    • Protection: With its strong, upright growth, the plant symbolizes protection. In some traditions, it is thought to ward off negative energies or spirits.
    • Transformation: The plant's life cycle and its use in traditional medicine to assist with transitions like menopause lend it the symbolic meaning of change and transformation.

Every 1-2 weeks
2500 - 10000 Lux
Every 2-3 years
Spring to Summer
As needed
  • water dropWater

    The Black Cohosh should be watered deeply once a week, providing about 1 to 1.5 inches of water each time. Ensure the soil is kept consistently moist but not waterlogged. During periods of drought or extreme heat, you may need to increase watering frequency. It's essential to water the plant at the base to avoid wetting the foliage, which can lead to fungal diseases. Overhead watering should be avoided, especially in the evening. Do not let the soil dry out completely between watering sessions, as this can stress the plant.

  • sunLight

    Black Cohosh thrives in partial to full shade conditions. The ideal spot for this plant would be in a garden area that receives filtered sunlight or a few hours of morning sun followed by shade during the hottest part of the day. Avoid placing it in direct, strong afternoon sunlight as it can scorch the leaves and cause stress to the plant.

  • thermometerTemperature

    Black Cohosh prefers a cooler climate and can tolerate temperatures as low as the mid-20s Fahrenheit, but will not survive in prolonged conditions below this range. The ideal temperature for this plant is between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Overly hot conditions, especially if paired with humidity, can stress the plant and should be avoided.

  • scissorsPruning

    Pruning Black Cohosh is primarily for aesthetic purposes and to remove any spent flower stalks or dead foliage, typically done in late fall or early spring. Cut back the foliage to the ground level in the late fall to prepare for winter or in early spring before new growth emerges. Pruning helps maintain a tidy appearance and encourages healthy growth in the upcoming season.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    Black cohosh prefers soil that is rich, moist, and well-draining with a pH of 5.5 to 6.8. A mix of loamy garden soil, compost, and leaf mold or peat moss can provide an appropriate growing medium for this plant.

  • plantRepotting

    Black cohosh does not require frequent repotting and can typically be repotted every 2 to 3 years to refresh the soil and accommodate growth.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    Black cohosh thrives in moderate to high humidity levels, with optimal conditions being around 60-80% relative humidity.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Place black cohosh in shade or partial shade and ensure high humidity.

    • Outdoor

      Plant in partial shade, moist soil, and mulch to retain moisture.

    • Hardiness zone

      3-8 USDA.

  • circleLife cycle

    Actaea podocarpa, commonly known as Mountain Bugbane, begins its life cycle as a seed, which germinates in a suitable environment with moist, rich soil, typically in shaded woodland areas. Upon germination, the seedling emerges and develops into a juvenile plant with a basal rosette of leaves. As it matures, Mountain Bugbane grows a leafy stem and produces compound leaves that are deeply divided. The plant eventually reaches reproductive maturity and forms tall, erect flower spikes bearing small, white flowers during late summer. After pollination, typically by insects, the flowers develop into small, dry fruits (follicles) that contain several seeds. The seeds are then dispersed, often by wind or water, completing the cycle as they find new locations to germinate and grow.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time

      Spring to Summer

    • Actaea podocarpa, commonly known as Black Cohosh, is a perennial plant that can be propagated through division, which is the most popular method. The best time for dividing Black Cohosh is in the early spring or fall when the plant is dormant. To propagate by division, carefully dig up an established clump and gently separate the crown into smaller pieces, each with at least one growth bud. Replant the divisions immediately at the same depth they were growing previously, spacing them about 18 to 24 inches (approximately 45 to 60 centimeters) apart to ensure adequate room for growth. Water the new plantings thoroughly to establish them in their new locations. This simple vegetative method helps maintain the genetic consistency of the plant and allows gardeners to quickly expand their collection of Black Cohosh.