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Actaea rubra

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About Red Baneberry (Actaea rubra) Actaea rubra (red baneberry, chinaberry, doll's eye) is a poisonous herbaceous flowering plant in the family Ranunculaceae, native to North America. They are found growing in shady areas with moist to wet soils, open forest or dry slopes. In Alaska it ranges from the Kenai Peninsula, through Kodiak Island, Bristol Bay, and up the Yukon River. Ecology. Plants are slow growing and take a few years to grow large enough to flower. The western subspecies is ssp. arguta, and the northern subspecies is ssp. rubra. These subspecies are not well differentiated, and in many locations, each grades in to the other over much of their ranges. The foliage is rarely consumed by grazing animals. The poisonous berries are harmless to birds, the plants' primary seed disperser. Uses. This plant is grown in shade gardens for its attractive berries and upright clump forming habit. Native Americans used the juice from the fruits of various baneberry species to poison arrows, and used the root as a herbal remedy for menstrual problems. The root of this species has been used as a strong alternative to Black Cohosh, (Cimicifuga racemosa) for menstrual cramping and menopausal discomfort. Toxicity. These open woodland plants grow 40 cm (16 in) to 80 cm (31 in) tall. The leaves are coarsely toothed with deeply lobed margins. Plants commonly have hairy veins on the undersides of the foliage. Each stem will have either three leaves that branch near the top, or will have three compound leaves and one upright flowering stalk from one point on the main central stem. Plants produce one to a few ternately branched stems which bear clusters of flowers having 3 to 5 sepals that are petal-like and obovate in shape and remain after flowering. The petals are deciduous, falling away after flowering is done. They are clawed at the base and 2. 5 mm to 4 mm long and spatulate to odovate in shape. Flowers have numerous stamens and they are white in color. After flowering green berries are produced. The fruits are ellipsoid shaped berries containing several seeds.
Plant Description
Plant Type
Perennial herb

Max. Height
1.3 - 2.6 ft (0.4 - 0.8 m)

Winter Deciduous

Flower Color

Flowering Season
Spring, Summer

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Moist places, deep soils,

Shade, Part Shade

Elevation ?
7' - 11157'

Annual Precip. ?
15.0" - 151.6"

Summer Precip. ?
0.19" - 5.67"

Coldest Month ?
22.1° F - 49.6° F

Hottest Month ?
43.7° F - 74.4° F

Humidity ?
0.01 vpd - 23.63 vpd

Soil Description
Tolerant of a variety of garden soils as long as sufficient moisture is available

Fast, Medium, Slow

Sunset Zones ?
1, 2, 3, 4*, 5*, 6*, 7*, 14, 15, 16*, 17*, 18

Landscaping Information
Water Requirement ?
Low, Moderate - High
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: 2-3 mos. cold, 1 mo. warm, and 2-3 mos. cold stratification. May take several mos. for germination. 3 mos. cold, 2-3 mos. warm, and 3 mos. cold stratification may hasten germination.

Common uses
Bank Stabilization, Deer Resistant

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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