Actaea rubra is part of a circumboreal complex and is very similar to the black-fruited European species Actaea spicata (L.) with which it is sometimes considered conspecific[
The western North American plants of Actaea rubra have been called Actinidia arguta and were distinguished on the basis of their smaller berries, more pubescent leaves, and narrow, more dissected leaflets. Those distinctions, however, are weak; specimens from the West often have fruits and leaves similar to those of plants from the East[
Actaea alba (L.) Mill.
Actaea americana Pursh
Actaea arguta Nutt.
Actaea aspleniifolia Greene
Actaea brachypetala DC.
Actaea californica Greene
Actaea caudata Greene
Actaea eburnea Rydb.
Actaea erythrocarpa (Fisch.) Kom.
Actaea longipes Spach
Actaea neglecta Gillman
Actaea spicata alba L.
Actaea spicata arguta (Nutt. ex Torr. & A.Gray) Torr.
Actaea spicata dissecta (Britton) K.C.Davis
Actaea spicata erythrocarpa Fisch.
Actaea spicata rubra Aiton
Actaea viridiflora Greene
Actaea vulgaris erythrocarpa (Fisch.) Spach
Christophoriana alba (L.) Nieuwl.
Christophoriana arguta (Nutt. ex Torr. & A.Gray) Lunell
Christophoriana rubra (Aiton) Nieuwl.
Dipleina umbellata Raf..
Common Name: Red Baneberry
Actaea rubra is a herbaceous, perennial plant producing one or more leafy stems around 80cm tall from a thick rootstock[
The plant was commonly used as a medicinal herb by the native N. Americans, though its toxicity has led to it being little used in modern herbalism. A very ornamental plant, it is often grown in gardens[
All parts of the plant are toxic[
], apparently acting upon the heart[
N. Europe - Norway, east through Russia to northern China, Japan. N. America - Arctic regions south to California and Philadelphia.
Moist shady areas, mostly in deciduous forests but also in mixed coniferous forests, open pine or spruce woodlands, swales, stream banks and swamps from sea level to 3,500 metres[
|Cultivation Status||Ornamental, Wild
Plants are hardy to at least -20°c[
Tolerates most conditions[
], but prefers a humus-rich moist soil in light shade[
] doing well amongst shrubs and in light woods[
]. Also succeeds in denser shade[
A greedy plant, inhibiting the growth of nearby plants, especially legumes[
This plant was often used medicinally by North American Indian tribes, though modern users should be aware of the plants potential toxicity.
The whole plant, but especially the root, is analgesic, antirheumatic, galactogogue and rubefacient[
]. A tea made from the root is used as an appetizer, in the treatment of stomach pains, coughs, colds, menstrual irregularities, post partum pains, to increase milk flow and as a purgative after childbirth[
Great caution should be employed if using this plant internally, the rootstock is a violent purgative, irritant and emetic[
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame or outdoors in a moist shaded seedbed[
]. The seed has a limited viability[
], it can also be sown in spring in a cold frame but germination rates may be poor. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer of the following year.
Division in early spring or early autumn.