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Cohosh Bugbane

Cimicifuga racemosa (L.) Nutt.

Cohosh bugbane
Figure 40.—Cohosh bugbane (Cimicifuga racemosa)
Other common names.—Black cohosh, black snakeroot, bugwort, rattlesnakeroot, rattleroot, rattleweed, rattletop, richweed, squawroot.

Habitat and range.—Although preferring the shade of rich woods, cohosh bugbane will grow occasionally in sunny places in fence corners and woodland pastures. It is most abundant in the Ohio Valley, but it occurs from Maine to Wisconsin, south along the Allegheny Mountains to Georgia, and westward to Missouri.

Description.—Cohosh bugbane, more commonly, but incorrectly, known in the trade as black cohosh and black snakeroot, is a conspicuous woodland plant on account of its tall flowering spikes. The tall rather slender plant sometimes grows to a height of 8 feet. The leaves are divided on the plan of three numerous-toothed leaflets about 2 inches long. The graceful flower spike, which is produced from June to August, is from 6 inches to 2 feet in length. As the white, round flower buds expand they give the spike a somewhat feathery appearance. Buds, blossoms, and seed pods may be seen on the spikes at the same time, the ripe pods full of seeds remaining on the dead stem during the winter. The flowers emit an offensive odor. The rootstock is large, horizontal, and knotty, and from the lower part are produced long, fleshy roots.

Part used.—The rootstock, collected after the fruit has ripened, usually in September.

Sievers, A.F. 1930. The Herb Hunters Guide. Misc. Publ. No. 77. USDA, Washington DC.
Last update March 18, 1998 by aw