Actaea rubra (Aiton) Willd.
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)
USDA Symbol: ACRU2
A bushy plant with large, highly divided leaves and a short, thick, rounded cluster of small white flowers in leaf axils or at stem ends. The branched, 1-3 ft. stems of this perennial bear two or three large compound leaves, each thrice divided. Leaflets are deeply saw-toothed. Above the foliage are dense, globular clusters of small white flowers. The fruit is an attractive, but poisonous, red berry.
In flower, the stamens give each cluster a feathery appearance.
From the Image Gallery
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Fruit Type: Berry
Size Notes: Up to about 3 feet tall.
Fruit: Green, Red
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun
DistributionUSA: AK , AZ , CA , CO , CT , IA , ID , IL , IN , KS , MA , ME , MI , MN , MT , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NV , NY , OH , OR , PA , RI , SD , UT , VT , WA , WI , WY
Canada: AB , BC , MB , NB , NL , NS , NT , ON , PE , QC , SK , YT
Native Habitat: Rich, moist, deciduous & coniferous woods & thickets.
Growing ConditionsLight Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
Soil Description: Well-drained, humus-rich soils.
Conditions Comments: Red baneberry is often found in association with its close relative, White baneberry (Actaea alba).
BenefitWarning: The berries of Red Baneberry (and White Baneberry) are very poisonous if ingested and may affect the nervous system. European species have fatally poisoned children, but baneberries are not reported to have caused death to humans or livestock in the United States. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a personís age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plantís different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil. POISONOUS PARTS: All parts, mainly showy berries and roots. Toxic if eaten in large quantities. Symptoms include burning of mouth and throat, salivation, severe stomach cramps, headache, diarrhea, dizziness and hallucinations. Toxic Principle: Unknown, glycoside or essential oil, protoanemonin. (Poisonous Plants of N.C.)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
PropagationDescription: Propagated by root division in early spring or fall, or by seed sown outside, 1/2" deep, as soon as ripe. Seeds germinate the following year and flower the third year.
Seed Collection: Approximate collection date for northern U.S.: late Jun. through Jul.
Seed Treatment: Two periods of cold treatment, inbetween which is a period of warm treatment, may hasten otherwise slow germination.
Commercially Avail: yes
Find Seed or Plants
Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.
View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.
Mr. Smarty Plants says
Plant identification, possibly Actaea rubra, red baneberry
August 06, 2008
I came across a plant that has leaves similar to the astillbe shrub, stands about 3 feet high, and instead of a flower spire, has a chunk of bright red berries the size of medium-sized pearls atop its...
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National Wetland Indicator Status
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE
BibliographyBibref 1294 - The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants An Illustrated Guide (2011) Adelman, Charlotte and Schwartz, Bernard L.
Search More Titles in Bibliography
Web ReferenceWebref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Actaea rubra in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Actaea rubra in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Actaea rubra
MetadataRecord Modified: 2023-05-03
Research By: TWC Staff