Black cohosh is an American native wild-flower. Cimicifuga is Latin for "driving bugs away," referring to the unpleasant, but not offensive, smell of the flowers. It was erroneously thought to repel insects. Plants were recently reclassified with baneberries in Actaea.
Description of black cohosh: Enormous leaves divide into three parts and are very attractive. In summer, flower spikes often reach a height of 8 feet in a perfect location. There are many tiny, white flowers that glow like candles if the plant is in the shade.
Ease of care: Easy
Growing black cohosh: Cimicifugas like partial shade and a good, fertile soil on the acid side. In evenly moist soil, they will take more sun. A good mulch of compost every spring is appreciated. Clumps enlarge slowly and can be left alone for years.
Propagating black cohosh: By division of mature plants in spring or by seed.
Uses for black cohosh: When not in bloom, these plants are attractive in the garden, but when flowering, these are the stars of the back of the border.
Black cohosh related species: Actaea americana, or American bugbane, is another member of the genus that is shorter, with flowering stalks up to 4 feet tall and blooming in late summer. Cimicifuga simplex comes from Japan and bears white fragrant flowers on 4-foot stems in the fall, often succumbing to frost before blooming.
Black cohosh related varieties: Brunette has dark purple foliage.
Scientific name: Actaea racemosa