Baneberry Actaea matsumurae 'Elstead Variety'

☠ Toxic to humans
🐾 Toxic to pets
🌸 Blooming
🍪 Not edible
‍🌱 Hard-care
baneberry 'Elstead Variety'


The Actaea matsumurae 'Elstead Variety', commonly known as Baneberry 'Elstead', is an ornamental plant prized for its graceful appearance. It features a clump of deeply divided, fern-like leaves that are rich green in color, creating a lush, dense mound. Notably, its foliage possesses a lacy texture that adds a delicate touch to garden spaces. The Baneberry 'Elstead' also boasts tall, bottlebrush-like spikes of tiny, creamy-white flowers that rise above the foliage during its blooming period. These flowers typically have a subtle fragrance and add a touch of elegance to the plant’s silhouette. Following the flowering season, the plant produces small, inedible berries that can range in color; however, for this variety, they often exhibit a white hue with a hint of red at the base, contributing additional visual interest as they hang from the flower spikes. Overall, the Baneberry 'Elstead' presents a combination of attractive fern-like foliage and showy flower spikes, making it a favored choice for shaded garden areas or woodland settings where it can provide texture and vertical interest without dominating the space with its size.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Family


    • Synonyms

      Bugbane, Cohosh, Fairy Candles

    • Common names

      Cimicifuga matsumurae 'Elstead Variety', Actaea simplex 'Elstead Variety'

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      Baneberry is considered toxic to humans, and ingesting any part of the plant, particularly the berries, can cause severe digestive disturbances. The symptoms of baneberry poisoning may include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headaches, and abdominal pain. In severe cases, it can lead to increased heart rate, seizures, and respiratory distress which can be life-threatening. Therefore, all parts of the plant should be considered dangerous and should not be consumed.

    • To pets

      Baneberry is also toxic to pets. If a pet ingests any part of the baneberry plant, they may exhibit symptoms similar to those in humans, such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and can lead to more severe symptoms like tremors, seizures, and cardiac complications. It is crucial to prevent pets from accessing these plants and to seek veterinary care immediately if ingestion is suspected.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Flower color


    • Height

      2-3 feet (60-90 cm)

    • Spread

      2 feet (60 cm)

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area



  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Aesthetic Appeal: Actaea matsumurae 'Elstead Variety', commonly known as Baneberry, adds visual interest to gardens with its lush foliage and spiked white flowers.
    • Shade Tolerance: Baneberry is well-suited for shaded areas where other plants might struggle to thrive, allowing gardeners to cultivate a beautiful garden even in low-light conditions.
    • Attracts Wildlife: The plant's flowers can attract pollinators like bees and butterflies, promoting biodiversity in the garden.
    • Seasonal Interest: With its late-season blooms, Baneberry provides garden interest from spring through fall, contributing to a varied and long-lasting display.
    • Easy to Grow: It is relatively low maintenance, requiring minimal care once established, thus suitable for beginner gardeners.
    • Drought Resistance: Once established, Baneberry is somewhat drought tolerant, making it a good choice for gardens in dryer climates.
    • Naturalizing: Baneberry can spread through rhizomes to form naturalized drifts in conducive environments, reducing the need for annual planting.
    • Companion Planting: It pairs well with other shade-loving perennials, allowing for creative garden design under the canopy of trees or in woodland settings.
    • Fall Foliage: The plant's foliage may turn attractive shades of yellow and red in the fall, providing autumnal interest.
    • Vertical Interest: Its tall flower spikes add vertical interest to the garden, helping to break up the monotony of lower-growing plants.

  • 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

    • Leaf Press Art: The foliage of the Baneberry 'Elstead Variety' can be harvested and pressed to create intricate patterns in art or craft projects, harnessing their unique shapes and textures.
    • Photography Subject: Its striking racemes of small, fluffy, white flowers make the Baneberry 'Elstead Variety' an excellent subject for macro photography, highlighting the beauty of the plant's structure.
    • Garden Contrast: The deep, purple-black berries and the lacy blue-green leaves are used by gardeners to create contrast with other plants in shady garden designs.
    • Seasonal Decorations: Baneberry 'Elstead Variety' berries and foliage can be incorporated into seasonal wreaths or centerpieces for tables during autumnal festivities.
    • Educational Tool: Botany educators may use Baneberry 'Elstead Variety' as a living example to teach about plant reproduction and berry development in the classroom.
    • Themed Gardens: The plant can be included in "witch" or "fairy" gardens due to its common name association and enchanting appearance, adding to the mystical ambiance of the space.
    • Floral Arrangements: Although not common, the flowers sometimes are used as part of floral arrangements to give a soft, delicate touch to bouquets, especially in spring-themed settings.
    • Nature Crafting: The dried berries can be used for crafting, such as making natural beads for homemade jewelry or decoration.
    • Garden Photography Backdrop: The plant's lush foliage can serve as a natural green backdrop for photographing other garden flowers or insects like bees and butterflies.
    • Dye Production: Though not traditionally used for this purpose, in theory, the berries could be explored as a natural dye source for materials like fabric or paper, given their strong pigmentation.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    The Bugbane is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    The Bugbane is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Mystery: The Actaea genus, particularly the Baneberry ('Elstead Variety'), is known for its toxic berries and deeply hued foliage, which often contribute to its association with mystique and secrecy.
    • Protection: In folklore, Baneberry is thought to ward off evil spirits and negativity, hence representing protection.
    • Caution: The toxicity of this plant’s berries serves as a natural warning sign, symbolizing the need for caution and care in life's endeavors.
    • Forbidden Knowledge: With its alluring yet poisonous characteristics, Baneberry can symbolize the allure and danger of forbidden knowledge or temptations.

Every 1-2 weeks
500 - 2500 Lux
Every 2-3 years
Late Spring-Early Summer
As needed
  • water dropWater

    The Bugbane should be watered deeply once a week, ensuring the soil remains moist but not waterlogged. During periods of high heat or drought, increase watering frequency to maintain consistent soil moisture. Typically, this plant would benefit from approximately 1 gallon of water each week, but adjust according to weather conditions and soil drainage. Allow the top inch of soil to dry out before watering again to avoid overwatering. Over the winter months, reduce watering as the plant requires less moisture when dormant.

  • sunLight

    Bugbane thrives best in partial shade conditions but can also tolerate full shade. It should be placed in a spot where it will be protected from the harsh afternoon sun, as too much direct sunlight can scorch the foliage. Dappled sunlight beneath high-canopy trees or the north side of a building would be an ideal location for this plant.

  • thermometerTemperature

    Bugbane does well in a range of temperatures but prefers a cooler climate. It can generally tolerate temperatures down to around 20°F and up to 80°F. However, the ideal temperature range for optimal growth is between 60°F and 70°F. Provide protection or mulch in winter to help the roots survive if temperatures dip below the tolerance level.

  • scissorsPruning

    Prune the Bugbane back after flowering to maintain its shape and encourage healthy growth for the following season. Cut back the spent flower stalks to the ground in late fall or early winter. Pruning annually is often enough, and the best time for pruning is when the plant starts to look untidy, or as soon as the blooms have faded.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    Baneberry prefers moist, rich, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. Amend with compost and peat moss for optimal growth conditions.

  • plantRepotting

    Baneberries do not need frequent repotting; do so only when rootbound, typically every 3-4 years.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    Baneberry thrives best in environments with moderate to high humidity, ensuring freshness without water logging.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Keep baneberry in filtered light, ensure high humidity and moist soil.

    • Outdoor

      Plant baneberry in partial shade, keep soil consistently moist.

    • Hardiness zone

      4-8 USDA

  • circleLife cycle

    The Actaea matsumurae 'Elstead Variety', commonly known as Elstead Bugbane, begins its life cycle as a seed that germinates in moist, well-drained soil in a shaded environment. After germination, the seedling develops a root system and foliage in the form of compound leaves. As the plant matures, it forms an upright clump with deep green, divided leaves that are attractive throughout the spring and summer. By late summer to early autumn, Elstead Bugbane produces tall, slender stems topped with bottlebrush-like spires of creamy-white, fragrant flowers that attract pollinators. Once pollinated, these flowers develop into small capsules that contain numerous seeds, which are dispersed when the capsules open, completing the reproductive cycle. During the winter, the plant dies back to the ground, but the rootstock remains alive, enabling the plant to re-sprout the next spring, continuing its perennial life cycle.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time

      Late Spring-Early Summer

    • The most popular method of propagating Actaea matsumurae 'Elstead Variety', commonly known as Baneberry, is by division. This is ideally done in early spring or just after the plant finishes flowering. Gently lift the plant from the soil and carefully divide the root clump into smaller sections, each with several shoots and a portion of the root system. Replant the divisions promptly at the same depth they were growing previously and water thoroughly. This technique allows the gardener to create new plants that are genetically identical to the parent plant and usually establishes quickly in the garden. It's a straightforward method that requires minimal equipment, just some careful handling to avoid excessive damage to the roots.