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Actaea rubra

Actaea rubra

Actaea rubra subspecies arguta (Red Baneberry)
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Montane, subalpine. Woodlands. Spring, summer.
Lizard Head Trail, June 19, 2004 and
Little Taylor Creek Trail, May 31, 2006.

Baneberry grows rapidly to two or three feet and then puts out long flower stems topped by a cylinder of white flowers.  The delicate clusters of flowers give way to very eye-catching and very poisonous red berry clusters. (The berries are infrequently white.) Equally poisonous European and Eastern U.S. species of this plant became infamous when parents made eyes for children’s dolls out of the white Actaea pachypoda berries (which have a black pupil-like spot on one end). Thus a poisonous plant came to be known by a very warm and homey name, "Doll’s Eyes".

Usually Actaea rubra enjoys cool, shady forests but in the second photograph at left the plant is growing just a few feet back from Little Taylor Creek.

Flower and seed heads are sometimes so heavy that they are horizontal.

In 1789 William Aiton named this plant Actaea spicata variety rubra from specimens collected in North America.  Carl Willdenow renamed the plant Actaea rubra in 1809.

"Actaea" is the ancient name for this plant. "Rubra" is Latin for "red".

Actaea rubraActaea rubra
Actaea rubra subspecies arguta (Red Baneberry)
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Montane, subalpine. Woodlands. Spring, summer.
Lizard Head Trail, June 9, 2006.

Actaea rubra

Green berries form rapidly after flowers fade.

Actaea rubra

Actaea rubra

Mature berries are almost always a glistening red.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Actaea rubra subspecies arguta (Red Baneberry)
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Montane, subalpine. Woodlands. Spring, summer.
Stoner Mesa Trail, June 23, 2005;
Lizard Head, Trail July 18, 2012;
Owens Basin Trail, August 27, 2008.

 

Actaea rubra

 

Actaea rubra subspecies arguta (Red Baneberry)
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Montane, subalpine. Woodlands. Spring, summer.
Bridal Veil Falls Trail, Telluride, August 19, 2016 and
Vallecito Creek Trail, September 13, 2010.

White berries are uncommon in the Four Corners region.  Actaea rubra

Actaea rubra
Actaea rubra subspecies arguta (Red Baneberry)
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Montane, subalpine. Woodlands. Spring, summer.
Bear Creek Trail, September 27, 2016.

Fall colors are soft and subtle.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Actaea rubra