Actaea pachypoda

White baneberry
Photo by Robert E. Wright via en Wikipedia
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$12.50/2 qt, $16.50/gallon
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Actaea pachypoda (Doll's-eyes, White Baneberry) is a flowering plant in the family Ranunculaceae, native to eastern North America. It is a herbaceous perennial plant growing to 50 cm or more tall with very attractive fruits, which are, toxic to people.

It is best grown in moist, organically rich, humusy, well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Soils should not be allowed to dry out, but need good drainage to prevent wet conditions from developing. Self-seeding may occur in optimum growing conditions where the berries fall to the ground. If naturalization is desired, berries may be picked and immediately planted into the ground as soon as they ripen in order to promote colonial spread. It is primarily cultivated in woodland and shade gardens for its attractive white berries and astilbe-like foliage. It naturally occurs in deep woods, north-facing wooded slopes, bluff bases and ravines. Ternately-compound leaves with toothed leaflets usually remain attractive through most of the growing season. Tiny white flowers appear in spring in short, oblong terminal clusters atop long greenish stems rising above the foliage. Flowering stems thicken after bloom and turn an attractive red as pea-sized white berries develop in summer in elongated clusters. The berries are extremely poisonous if eaten, hence the common name of baneberry. Each berry has a distinctive small dark purplish spot (formed by the flower stigma) which gives rise to another common name of doll’s eyes. Berry toxicity probably is the main reason why wildlife seems to ignore the fruit, with the berry clusters typically persisting on the plants and providing ornamental interest until frost.

The genus name is the Latin name adopted by Linnaeus from Pliny, and the species name means with a thick foot (stalk).

There are no serious insect or disease problems, although foliage decline may occur in hot summer climates particularly if soils become too wet from periods of heavy rain. The berries are extremely poisonous if ingested, and consideration should be given to avoid planting this species in areas frequented by young children.

Adapted from: Missouri Botanic Garden Plant Finder

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