Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Mountain Bugbane - Actaea podocarpa   de Candolle
Members of Actaea with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Ranunculales » Family Ranunculaceae
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Authorde Candolle
DistributionThroughout the mountains except for the extreme southwestern tip, where no records yet for Cherokee and Clay counties. Found mainly at the higher elevations, mostly over 4,000 feet, but ranging down to 3,000 feet.

This is a central and southern Appalachian Mountain endemic. It ranges north to southwestern PA and south to northern GA.
AbundanceInfrequent over the mountains as a whole, but can be fairly common to locally common on some of the higher mountains. The NCNHP State Rank of S4 seems somewhat liberal, and a rank of S3 or S3S4 might be more realistic.
HabitatThis is a species found on cool and moist slopes, typically in quite rich soil. Soils can often be somewhat rocky, such as in boulderfield forests. It favors Rich Cove Forests and Northern Hardwood Forests, but also is found in High Elevation Seep Forests, Rich Boulderfield Forests, and into mixed spruce-hardwood forests.
See also Habitat Account for Rich Montane Hardwood Forests
PhenologyBlooms from July to September.
IdentificationThis is a fairly robust herbaceous species, growing to about 4 feet tall (not including the flowering stalk). As with several other members of the family, it has large, multi-divided/compound leaves, 2- to 3-times divided into very serrated leaflets. The larger leaflets are often 4-5 inches long and nearly as wide, with terminal leaflets usually 3-lobed (like a maple leaf). There are several slender racemes scattered over the plant from leaf axils, and these are very narrow and spire-shaped, white, and often about 8 inches long but just 1 inch wide. The many dozens of flowers are white, though the color is mostly owing to the many stamens present. To separate this species from the very similar A. racemosa, look carefully at a flower. In A. podocarpa, there are several (3-8) ovaries, also white; however, A. racemosa has just a single ovary, in the middle of the flower. The effect is that a flower of A. podocarpa will look slightly more "spidery", as the ovaries are not much wider that the many stamens, whereas the other species will look more like dozens of white spokes around a central "peg". Also, A. podocarpa has the petioles of the basal leaves with a deep and broad groove, whereas the more common A. racemosa lacks this groove. Lastly, A. podocarpa blooms well after A. racemosa; it blooms in late summer, whereas A. racemosa blooms in late spring and should be about finished blooming by mid-July, about when the less numerous species starts to bloom. If you are planning to look for this species, you should try places over 4,000 feet in elevation, as you have a better chance of finding it the higher up you go. In the lower elevations (below 3,000 feet), the numerous Rich Cove Forests will probably lack this species.
Taxonomic CommentsUntil fairly recently, the species was named as Cimicifuga americana.

Other Common Name(s)Mountain Black-cohosh, Late Black-cohosh. Though it would be helpful for each of the three NC species of Actaea to have a common group name, this is not likely to happen, especially as two of the three were not in Actaea until recently. Thus, each has a different "group" common name, especially as Actaea generally are named as "baneberry" whereas the former Cimicifuga are named as "bugbane" or "cohosh".
State RankS4
Global RankG4
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