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Vick, Albert F. W.
Caulophyllum thalictroides (L.) Michx.
Blue cohosh, Squaw-root, Papoose-root, Caulophylle faux-pigamon
USDA Symbol: cath2
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
Spreading and bushy when mature, blue cohosh is a large, many-stemmed perennial, 1-3 ft. tall. Thrice-compound leaves with lobed leaflets are purplish in spring. Inconspicuous, purplish-brown to yellow-green flowers in a loosely branched cluster. Clusters of flowers are followed by conspicuous, bright-blue berries.
The six stamens and central pistil of this early spring flower mature at different times, assuring cross-pollination. The petals bear fleshy nectar glands that are visited by early solitary bees. The ovary is eventually ruptured by the developing seeds within it; the seeds are thus exposed, an unusual condition among flowering plants. The seeds have reportedly been used as a coffee substitute, but may also be toxic. The foliage resembles meadow rues (Thalictrum), hence the species name.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Herb Leaf:
Blue Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Yellow , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Apr , May
, WV Canada: NB
, ON Native Distribution:
N.B. to s.e. Man., s. to New England, SC
& AR Native Habitat: Deciduous
& mixed woods
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Rich, moist, well-drained soils
Conditions Comments: A heavy wintercoat of mixed leaves should be left on plant in the spring.
BenefitWarning: The berries, roots and leaves of this plant may cause skin irritation if touched, and the raw berries may be poisonous to children if ingested. POISONOUS PARTS: Raw seeds, roots. Low toxicity if ingested. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea. Toxic Principle: Alkaloid and saponins. (Poisonous Plants of N.C.)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
PropagationSeed Collection: Not Available
Seed Treatment: Scarifing seeds by nicking the seed coat will hasten germination.
Commercially Avail: yes
From the National Organizations Directory
According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is either on display or available from the following:
Delaware Nature Society
- Hockessin, DEMt. Cuba Center
- Hockessin, DE
Record Last Modified: 2012-10-03
Research By: TWC Staff