fbpx Fall bugbane | The Morton Arboretum

Fall bugbane

Fall bugbane has spikes of white flowers in the late summer.

Fall bugbane is a late blooming perennial with mounds of lacy, shiny leaves that send up 4 to 5 foot high flower spikes of fragrant, white flowers. A great plant for shady moist sites.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name:

Actaea simplex

All Common Names:

Fall bugbane, Kamchatka bugbane

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Perennial

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Massing,
  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • Large plant (more than 24 inches)

Light Exposure:

  • 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:

  • Alkaline soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Wet sites,
  • Clay soil

Season of Interest:

  • Mid summer,
  • Late summer,
  • Early fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Mounded,
  • Upright

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

More Information:


Mounds of lacy, 3-segmented leaves that send up 4 to 5 feet high flower stalks

Plant Care

Best in light to medium shade in slightly acidic soil with lots of organic matter
Plants benefit with a couple of inches of mulch to moderate soil temperature and conserve moisture
Fertilize in spring with a balanced fertilizer
In windy sites, flower stalk may need to be staked for support
Deadhead old flower spikes or leave to add winter interest
Bugbanes do not normally need winter protection

Disease, pests, and problems

Leaf spots and rust

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Deer and rabbit resistant

Attracts birds and pollinators

Birds and butterflies are attracted to the scent

Native geographic location and habitat

Russia, Mongolia, China, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan

Leaf description

Deeply cut leaves are 1-4 inches long; compound and divided into 3 segments

Flower description

Long racemes of candle-like spikes of white flowers; slightly fragrant
Flowers open in late summer and persist for 3 to 4 weeks.

Fruit description

A dehisent capsule. Seepods can be left for winter interest.

Cultivars and their differences

Black Negligee bugbane (Actaea simplex 'Black Negligee'): 4 to 5 feet high and 18 to 24 inches wide; dark purplish-black foliage and purplish-tinged flowers. 

Brunette bugbane (Actaea simplex 'Brunette): 3 to 4 feet high and 2 to 3 feet wide; coppery-bronze foliage; white flower spikes

Hillside Black Beauty (Actaea simplex 'Hillside Black Beauty'): 4 to 6 feet high and 2 to 4 feet wide; purple-black foliage; white flowers

Pink Spike bugbane (Actaea simplex 'Pink Spike'): 3 to 5 feet high and 1 to 2 feet wide; raspberry pink buds open to pale pink, scented flowers on black stems; foliage is chocolate-purple.

White Pearl bugbane (Actaea simplex 'White Pearl'):  3 to 4 feet high and 2 to 3 feet wide; white flower spikes in late summer.


Location of Actaea simplex (Fall bugbane) at the Arboretum