Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - Black Cohosh

As the garden season winds down there are fewer choices for Friday's fabulous flower, but then a favorite plant decided to bloom, so here you go, the black cohosh, or black snakeroot, or black bugbane, none of which make this native of the north eastern North America sound very nice. In a bit of a twist, modern molecular studies have determined that this plant belongs in the genus Actea (A. racemosa), where good old Linnaeus placed it all those centuries ago based on pure morphology; for the past century it had been in the genus Cimicifuga. But no matter the name, it's the same plant, and a member of the buttercup family, which surprises people who aren't familiar with its diversity. What you actually see is an inflorescence where the floral display is largely composed of stamen filaments and a smallish single perianth whorl, a bit like mimosoid legumes. Small flowers arranged like this in either "bottle brushes" or "powder puffs" function as diverse pollinators move over the outside of the inflorescence. Once established, and this must be said, they are slow, these are great perennials under the shade of hardwood trees.

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