BLACK COHOSH BLACK SNAKEROOT TALL BUGBANE
(Cimicifuga racemosa) Crowfoot family [Buttercup family]
Flowers - Fetid, feathery, white, in an elongated wand-like
raceme, 6 in. to 2 ft. long, at the end of a stem 3 to 8 ft.
high. Sepals petal-like, falling early; 4 to 8 small stamen-like
2-cleft; stamens very numerous, with long filaments; 1 or
2 sessile pistils with broad stigmas. Leaves: Alternate, on long
petioles, thrice compounded of oblong, deeply toothed or cleft
leaflets, the end leaflet often again compound. Fruit: Dry oval
pods, their seeds in 2 rows.
Preferred Habitat - Rich woods and woodland borders, hillsides.
Flowering Season - June-August.
Distribution - Maine to Georgia, and westward from Ontario to
Tall white rockets, shooting upward from a mass of large handsome
leaves in some heavily shaded midsummer woodland border, cannot
fail to impress themselves through more than one sense, for their
odor is as disagreeable as the fleecy white blossoms are
striking. Obviously such flowers would be most attractive to the
carrion and meat flies. Cimicifuga, meaning to drive away bugs,
and the old folk-name of bugbane testify to a degree of
offensiveness to other insects, where the flies' enjoyment
begins. As these are the only insects one is likely to see about
the fleecy wands, doubtless they are their benefactors. The
countless stamens which feed them generously with pollen
willingly left for them alone must also dust them well as they
crawl about before flying to another fetid lunch.
The close kinship with the baneberries is detected at once on
examining one of these flowers. Were the vigorous plant less
offensive to the nostrils, many a garden would be proud to own so
decorative an addition to the shrubbery border.
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