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Bugbane in full flower.

Bugbane is a low maintenance, shade-tolerant perennial with late season spikes of white flower on tall wiry stems. It creates a great vertical accent for a shade garden, perennial border or along a pond edge.

Botanical name:

Actaea racemosa (syn. Cimicifuga racemosa)

All Common Names:

Bugbane, Black snakeroot, Black bugbane, Black cohosh, Deerweed, Feather Wands, rattleroot, rattleweed, Squaw root, Summer rockets, Swan's neck Virginia snakeroot

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Perennial

Native Locale:

  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Massing,
  • Mixed border

Size Range:

  • Large plant (more than 24 inches)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily),
  • Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 3,
  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8

Soil Preference:

  • Acid soil,
  • Alkaline soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Occasional flooding

Season of Interest:

  • Late summer,
  • Early fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Mounded,
  • Upright

Growth Rate:

  • Slow

More Information:


Dense fibrous roots mound into large shiny leaves. Plants reach 4 to 6 feet high when in flower.

Plant Care

Best in part shade to dense shade in organic rich, slightly acidic soil. Avoid wet sites.
If grown in full sun, provide adequate soil moisture. Avoid hot afternoon sun.
Division is difficult and best to let plants remain undisturbed.
Staking wiry flower stalks may be needed.
Allow seedheads to remain in fall for winter interest, cut back in spring.
If lack of snow cover in northern climates add winter mulch to protect crown of plants.

Disease, pests, and problems

Leaf spots and rust

Native geographic location and habitat

Eastern U.S. from Ont. to ME; south to AR, MS & GA

Leaf description

Deeply cut leaves are 1 to 4 inches long; ternately-compound (divided into 3 segments, 3 times); ovate and irregularly toothed.

Flower description

Long racemes of creamy white flowers are often branches at the base of terminal flower heads on long wiry stems.
Flowers open in late summer and persist for 3 to 4 weeks. Excellent for woodland settings.

May require 3 to 4 years to flower

Fruit description

A dehiscent fruit (follicle) can add winter interest


Location of Actaea racemosa (syn. Cimicifuga racemosa) (Bugbane) at the Arboretum

We do not seem to have this in our living collection.