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Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa)

Black cohosh [Actea racemosa (L.) formerly Cimicifuga racemosa (L.) Nutt], member of the Ranunculaceae family, is a native medicinal plant found in rich woodlands from Maine to Georgia, west to Missouri, Indiana, and Ontario. In North Carolina it can be found at elevations up to 4,000 feet. It is an herbaceous perennial reaching a mature height of well above four feet and can grow at a rate of 18 to 22 inches per month during the growing season. The leaves are large with three pinnately compound divisions and irregularly toothed leaflets. Tall plumes of cream to white flowers, on a wand-like raceme, bloom from May to July, often towering over six feet. From August to October, seeds develop in capsules and make a rattling sound when they are mature and ready to be harvested. Of economic importance are the rhizomes and roots. The rhizome is dark brown to black in color; is thick and knobby; and produces large buds on the upper surface. The rhizomes also have fibrous roots attached. When the leaves on the plant start to die back in the fall, the root is harvested, cleaned, and dried.

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