Baneberry Actaea spicata

☠ Toxic to humans
🐾 Toxic to pets
🌸 Blooming
🍪 Not edible
‍🌱 Easy-care


Actaea spicata is commonly known as baneberry. The plant is characterized by its compound leaves that are finely divided, giving it a feathery appearance. These leaves are usually dark green in color. The plant produces small, white flowers that are grouped together in an elongated cluster known as a raceme, which has a slightly fluffy look. After flowering, baneberry bears toxic berries that are initially green, turning to a glossy black as they mature. The berries are held in small clusters on red stems, which can be quite eye-catching. Overall, baneberry has a bushy, clumping habit, with its delicate leaves contrasting with the bold berries.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Synonyms

      Baneberry, Herb Christopher, Eurasian Baneberry, Toadroot

    • Common names

      Actaea alba, Actaea erythrocarpa, Actaea spicata var. alba, Christophea spicata, Actaea spicata subsp. erythrocarpa.

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      Baneberry (Actaea spicata) is highly toxic to humans when ingested, containing toxic compounds such as glycosides and isoquinoline alkaloids. Consuming any part of the baneberry plant can lead to severe poisoning. Symptoms of baneberry poisoning include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, stomach cramps, headache, diarrhea, and a burning sensation in the mouth and throat. In severe cases, it can also cause convulsions, hallucinations, and cardiac arrest, which may be fatal. Immediate medical attention is necessary if ingestion occurs.

    • To pets

      Baneberry (Actaea spicata) is equally toxic to pets as it is to humans, presenting a danger if they consume any part of the plant. Poisoning symptoms in pets may include similar signs as in humans, such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and tremors. More severe symptoms could involve seizures, respiratory distress, and cardiac failure. Baneberry poisoning is a medical emergency for pets, and immediate veterinary care should be sought if ingestion of the plant is suspected.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Flower color


    • Height

      2 feet (60 cm)

    • Spread

      1 foot (30 cm)

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area



  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Wildlife Habitat: Actaea spicata, commonly known as baneberry, provides habitat and food for wildlife, particularly insects and birds that may feed on its berries.
    • Aesthetic Appeal: The baneberry plant has attractive fern-like foliage and distinctive white or red berries, which add visual interest to gardens and natural landscapes.
    • Shade Tolerance: Baneberry is well-suited for shaded areas where other plants might struggle to grow, making it a valuable addition to woodland gardens or shaded borders.
    • Low Maintenance: Once established, baneberry plants require minimal care, making them a convenient choice for gardeners seeking low-maintenance landscaping options.
    • Erosion Control: With its extensive root system, baneberry can help to stabilize soil and prevent erosion in sloped or uneven areas.
    • Ecosystem Diversity: By integrating baneberry into a garden or landscape, one can contribute to biodiversity, supporting various insects and microbes that are essential to a healthy ecosystem.
    • Traditional Uses: Though not for medical purposes, baneberry has been used in various traditional practices and folklore, contributing to cultural heritage when grown in gardens or preserved in its natural habitat.

  • medicalMedical Properties

    • Analgesic: Actaea spicata, commonly known as Baneberry, has been traditionally used to relieve pain.
    • Anti-inflammatory: Components in the plant may reduce inflammation, although this use is not widely verified.
    • Diaphoretic: Baneberry has been used to stimulate sweating, which can potentially help to reduce fevers.
    • Emmenagogue: Herbalists have used the plant to stimulate menstrual flow.

  • windAir-purifying Qualities

    This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.

  • leavesOther Uses

    • Actaea spicata, commonly known as Baneberry, has been used historically as a dye for wool, giving it a soft, greenish hue.
    • The plant has ornamental value and is often cultivated in gardens for its striking white flowers and attractive berries, albeit toxic.
    • In some traditional practices, Baneberry has been used as a protective charm against evil spirits and negative influences.
    • The berries of Baneberry, while poisonous, have been used to make inks and paints due to their deep purplish-black color.
    • The crushed roots, emitting a strong, disagreeable odor, have been used to repel insects and small critters from homes and gardens.
    • Some cultures would hang dried Baneberry branches around homes as a talisman to ward off lightning during thunderstorms.
    • Baneberry has been a component in the craft of making natural traps and snares due to its robust stems and roots.
    • The plant has been referenced in folklore and storytelling to symbolize deceit and danger, due to the appealing appearance of its deadly berries.
    • Because of its toxicity, extracts of Baneberry have been used as a pest deterrent, to safeguard crops from rodents and insects.
    • In small, controlled amounts, Baneberry has been used as a bait in hunting, mainly due to its attractiveness to certain wildlife.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    The Baneberry is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    The Baneberry is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Delusion: Actaea spicata, also known as Baneberry, has toxic properties that can induce delirium or hallucinations if ingested, symbolizing deception or a lack of clarity.
    • Mysticism: Its association with medieval witchcraft and traditional medicine lends Baneberry a mystic quality, often associated with esoteric knowledge or the supernatural.
    • Protection: It was historically used in rituals and charms to ward off evil, suggesting a symbol of safeguarding and spiritual defense.
    • Danger: The toxicity of Baneberry’s berries serves as a warning symbol, reminding us of the inherent dangers in the natural world and to proceed with caution.
    • Forbidden fruit: The enticing appearance of Baneberry’s fruit, despite its poisonous nature, symbolizes temptation and the concept of something being forbidden yet desirable.

Every 1-2 weeks
500 - 2500 Lux
Every 2-3 years
Spring to Summer
Not needed
  • water dropWater

    The Baneberry (Actaea spicata) prefers consistently moist soil, but it is important to avoid waterlogging. Water the Baneberry thoroughly when the top inch of soil feels dry, which typically amounts to about once or twice a week, depending on climate conditions. Each watering should provide enough water to moisten the soil to a depth of 6 inches, which may be about half a gallon for smaller plants and up to 2 gallons for larger established plants. Adjust the frequency of watering during hot, dry spells to maintain moisture, and reduce it during cooler, wetter periods.

  • sunLight

    The Baneberry thrives in partial to full shade, away from direct afternoon sun which can scorch its leaves. It is well-suited for a spot under the canopy of tall trees or on the north side of a building where it can receive bright, indirect light. The ideal light conditions replicate the dappled sunlight of its natural woodland habitat.

  • thermometerTemperature

    Baneberry plants do best in temperate climates and can tolerate temperatures ranging from around -30 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The Baneberry prefers the cooler temperatures of spring and fall, with an ideal growth range between 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Severe heat can stress the plant, so it's important to provide adequate shade and moisture during the hottest parts of the summer.

  • scissorsPruning

    Pruning Baneberry plants typically involves removing dead or damaged foliage to maintain plant health and appearance. Prune in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. It's generally not necessary to prune Baneberry frequently, as the plant maintains a natural shape. The best time for pruning is after the berries have disappeared and the plant begins to go dormant.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    Baneberry thrives in a well-draining, moisture-retentive soil enriched with organic matter. The best soil mix is a combination of loamy soil, peat or leaf mold, and perlite to ensure good drainage. The ideal soil pH for Actaea spicata, commonly known as baneberry, is slightly acidic to neutral, ranging from 6.0 to 7.0.

  • plantRepotting

    Baneberry does not require frequent repotting and can often be left undisturbed for several years. When the roots become crowded, typically every 3-4 years, repot the plant in early spring, just before new growth begins.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    Baneberry prefers a humid environment, but as a woodland plant, it does not require the high humidity of tropical plants. Aim for a moderate humidity level, between 40-60%, for optimal growth.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Ensure shaded light, cool temp, and moist soil for baneberry.

    • Outdoor

      Plant in shade with rich soil and keep well-watered.

    • Hardiness zone

      3-8 USDA

  • circleLife cycle

    Actaea spicata, commonly known as baneberry, begins its life as a seed, which germinates in the spring under sufficient moisture and temperature conditions. The seedling grows into a vegetative plant with compound leaves; this stage involves the establishment of the root system and leaf expansion. By late spring or early summer, the mature plant develops racemes of small white flowers that are pollinated by insects. Following pollination, flowers develop into inedible and toxic small black or red berries by late summer. The plant then undergoes senescence in the autumn where above ground parts die back, while the perennial rootstock survives through winter. In subsequent years, Actaea spicata re-emerges from its rootstock to complete the cycle with new growth in spring.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time

      Spring to Summer

    • Propogation: Actaea spicata, commonly known as Baneberry, is typically propagated by seed. The optimal time to sow Baneberry seeds is in the fall, as these seeds require a period of cold stratification to break dormancy. This involves sowing the seeds in well-drained seed starting mix, followed by a cold treatment lasting several weeks at temperatures around 32°F (0°C), which can naturally occur over the winter when sown outdoors. When temperatures rise in spring, the seeds should start to germinate. The process mimics the natural cycle of the seeds falling to the ground and experiencing winter before sprouting. This cold period can also be artificially provided by placing the sown seeds in a refrigerator if fall sowing is not feasible. Seedlings can then be carefully transplanted to their final growing locations once the risk of frost has passed and they have developed a robust root system.