Sunday, June 19, 2011

Black Cohosh is blooming!

   One of my all-time favorite wildflowers is blooming right now, Cimicifuga Racemosa. I've seen it called black cohosh, bugbane, and snakeroot in different books and online, I don't know if one name is more correct than the others. Black cohosh was one of the first wildflowers I noticed when I was younger and was actually able to identify. It's impossible to overlook or misidentify this dramatic plant, it usually grows around 4-7 feet tall and is covered with insects when blooming. It's one of the few plants that grows well under the deep shade of a hardwood forest. In addition to being an incredible pollen provider, it's also a host plant for numerous butterflies, like the Appalachian Azure.

   Never before have I seen so many bumblebees so deep in a forest! Unfortunately these pictures were not taken in my yard, I came across these plants on a nature trail, deep in shady ravine. However I do desperately want to add some to my collection. There are a few garden hybrids available, and I have two of them. One is called cimicifuga atropurpurpea, it looks very similar but the flowers smell sweet. The flowers on the wild version smell somewhat stinky. The other is called Kamchatka Bugbane. They both are extremely sun sensitive and prefer to have little to no direct sun at all. I love these plants, and so do the insects!


  1. Swell plant! I have been seeing a bit on my trail runs lately in central VA. What I'm not seeing are butterflies in any real numbers. I know you are trying to attract them...are you seeing many?

  2. Funny you should mention that- no, we're not seeing very many butterflies at all. Back in the spring, I saw more, but still not as many as I would have expected. We do however have lots and lots of bees, of all different kinds. I'm still rather new at this, does anyone out there have an explanation?

  3. Cimicifuga Racemosa (black cohosh, bugbane, and snakeroot) is quickly becoming a new favorite of mine...thank you for spotlighting it. I think I've seen it in one of my field guides as snakeroot--with all the mention of black cohosh a while back on WildlifeGardeners, I wish I'd known that I am slightly familiar with this plant. :) Now I know.

    I'll add it to my list of wants.

    As to butterflies, I just came back in from walking out to the only butterflyweed that is currently blooming in the yard...not a single butterfly on it. However, I did see two different species on my way out.

    Could the very wet spring have anything to do with the scarcity of butterflies?