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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Sunday - September 07, 2008

From: Olympia, WA
Region: Northwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Shrubs
Title: Failure to thrive of Actaea simplex in Washington State
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a Actaea simplex 'Hillside Black Beauty' that I planted in mid August 2007 in a partial, almost full shade spot. This year it came back , but the foliage is brown with dark and light green areas (not healthy looking). Also, it has several flower spikes, but they never developed fully, and did not bloom. I realize it is probably too late to help for this year, but am wondering what I need to do to ensure it is a healthier plant for next season.

ANSWER:

In our Native Plant Database, we found six members of the Actaea genus, Actaea elata (tall bugbane), Actaea pachypoda (white baneberry), Actaea rubra (red baneberry), Actaea rubra ssp. arguta (red baneberry), Actaea racemosa var. racemosa (black bugbane) and  Actaea rubra ssp. rubra (red baneberry).

However, Actaea simplex (Kemper Center For Home Gardening), is listed as a native to Mongolia, eastern Russia and Japan, and therefore out of our area of expertise, as the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center specializes in the use and propagation of plants native to North America. Hopefully, you can get some information from our webpages on the native Actaea to help you. The cultivar "Hillside Black Beauty" is discussed in this Dave's Forum website. It would appear that at least the native species of this plant are a little slow to develop and usually need two years or so to really get going. Also, they need shade and a moist soil. Give it another year to develop and see how it goes.

 

 

 

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