In a creamy plume of Bowers composed entirely of a whorl of white stamens around a pistil disk, the white baneberry in April blooms in the deep hilly woods of Illinois.
Actaea alba (L.) Mill.
The stamens actually are slender petals transformed at the tips into stamens. The whole flower cluster is a creamy white plume standing tall on a stiff stem above the leafy plant. The leaves are dark green, toothed and compound, rather like elderberry leaves, so that Linnaeus in naming the baneberry called it Actaea which is the Greek name for the elder.
Baneberry blooms in April. Then in the growing leafiness of the woods the plant is Inconspicuous, though it is large. On the end of the flower stalk forms a cluster of green berries which, as late summer comes into the woods, are transformed into something unique. The stems on which the berries grow are carmine and very stout, almost as thick as the berries themselves. And the oval fruits are china-white with a purple spot at the end. They are often called doll's eyes by children who find them there, for the resemblance to old-fashioned china dolls' eyes is most striking. The well-spaced cluster of white fruits on red stems is one of the ornamental sights of the late summer woods. The berries, however, are poisonous; they have a toxic and dizzying quality when eaten - hence the old name of baneberry and should be avoided as food. Bu1 as something beautiful, something startlingly white in the dark woods, the white baneberry is remarkable.
Red baneberry (Actaea rubra) has a similar flower cluster but the fruiting -talk bears brilliant scarlet, shining berries in exact contrast to those of the white, and the leaves are a darker, glossier green.