Also known as doll’s eye, this herbaceous perennial is native to eastern North America where it thrives in the rich, moist soil of deciduous woodlands. It is a member of the buttercup family, that also includes delphinium, anemone, and hellebore. The plant is unbranched or sparingly branched, grows 2-4′ tall, and has a thick rhizome and dark green leaves that are twelve to sixteen inches long, ternately compound and resemble those of astilbe. In spring fragrant, fringed, white flowers appear on two to four inch long terminal racemes with green stems that slowly thicken and turn pinkish red as the berries develop during the summer. The berries are white and have a black stigma scar giving rise to another common name, ‘doll’s eyes”. They persist into winter and are eaten by some birds but not mammals. White baneberry is especially valued for its attractive foliage and berries and is a good choice for a shade garden or native garden. All parts of the plant are poisonous so white baneberry should not be grown where children or pets are likely to play. The genus name, Actaea, is derived from the Greek name for elder that has leaves like baneberry. The specific epithet, pachypoda, comes from Ancient Greek παχύς (pakhús)  meaning thick, and πούς (poús) meaning foot and refers to the the berry pedicels that thicken as the berries develop. Photo Credit Meneerke bloem Wikimedia Commons

Type: Herbaceous perennial

Bloom: Terminal racemes of small white flowers in spring

Size: 2-4’ H x 3’ W

Light: Part to full shade

Soil: Fertile, humusy, moist, well-drained

Hardiness: Zones 3-7

Care: Low maintenance; keep soil moist in summer

Pests and Diseases: None of significance

Propagation: Seed, root division in spring

Companion plants: Ferns, sedges, wild ginger (Asarum canadense), alumroot (Heuchera villosa), fawn’s breath (Porteranthus trifoliatus), Anemone canadensis, Lobelia cardinalis

Outstanding Selection: ‘Misty Blue’ (bluish-green foliage)

Photo Credit D Gordon E Robertson Wikimedia Commons

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By Karen