Actaa, an ancient name of the Elder, transferred to this plant by Linnaeus.

Perennial. Open woods. Nova Scotia, west to Minnesota, south to Georgia and Louisiana. Common in northern Ohio. April-June.


Erect, one to two feet high.


Petioled, large, ternately compound, leaflets ovate, deeply cut and sharply toothed, terminal one obovate.


Small, white, in oblong terminal racemes.


Sepals three to five, petaloid, falling when the flower expands.


Petals four to ten, white, narrow, on slender claws.


Many; filaments white; anthers yellow.


One; stigma sessile, two-lobed.


Many-seeded berry, globular, white with a black eye, borne on a thickened red pedicel.

Pollinated by small bees. Not nectar-bearing. Stigmas mature before the anthers.

In a damp, shaded ravine or on a wooded hillside where the undergrowth is open one often finds in early May the compound leaves and fluffy flower-cluster of the White Baneberry.

Each tiny flower as it begins life has four to five petal-like sepals, but drops them as the flower opens, leaving as a residue from four to ten blunt, narrow, white petals, which soon take themselves away, so that at the end many white, fine, yellow-tipped stamens and a single pistil do duty as the flower. Inevitably this confuses the amateur botanist who does not suspect that so much of the blossom has departed.

White Baneberry. Actoea alba

White Baneberry. Actoea alba

The flowers are borne on short stems which grow out from the main stem at right angles, and open almost together along the upper part of a pale-green stalk. The flower-cluster is not very showy, rather delicate in fact, but very pretty and feathery. The flower-stem unites with the main stalk at the junction of the leaf-stems.

In September the fruit is very noticeable in the form of a loose, stiff raceme of pure white berries, each with a little black eye and borne on thickened red pedicels. The effect is unusual and quite worthy the children's name - Dolls' Eyes.

The Red Baneberry, Actoea rubra, is a form very like White Baneberry but of more northern range. The general character of the two plants is very similar, but the fruit of the Red Baneberry is a thick cluster of red oval berries upon slender pedicels. The blooming season is considerably later.