June 28, 2017

Light the Fairy Candle

Actaea racemosa - Black cohosh

Janine Pineo Photo | Actaea racemosa – Black cohosh

The tall racemes of flowers on Actaea racemosa do look a bit like a candle when in full bloom. But the native plant has a number of other names that are less fanciful: black cohosh, black bugbane and the delightful black snakeroot. It also has another botanical name: Cimicifuga racemosa, which was its calling card for centuries until it was recently decided it is more closely related to the genus Actaea. As a garden plant, black cohosh is hardy to Zone 3 and can soar easily to 6 feet – or more – in height. The fairy candles moniker may stem from the simple fact that the plant thrives in part to full shade, making the towering racemes of ivory practically glow in those oft-gloomy areas of the yard. It can be a bit slow to establish itself, which we here at Garden Maine can attest to. Our plant took several seasons before it started to show off. As for the bugbane reference, that comes from its rather smelly properties that help ward off insects. By the way, the plant is attributed with a number of medicinal properties, not the least of which is its use for “women’s” ailments.

Actaea racemosa - Black cohosh

Janine Pineo Photo | Actaea racemosa – Black cohosh