Actaea spicata

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Actaea spicata
Actaea-spicata-berries.JPG
Actaea spicata fruit
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
Order: Ranunculales
Family: Ranunculaceae
Genus: Actaea
Species: A. spicata
Binomial name
Actaea spicata
L.

Actaea spicata (Baneberry, Eurasian Baneberry, or Herb Christopher) is a species of flowering plant in the genus Actaea, native to Europe and Western Asia.

It is a herbaceous perennial plant growing 30-60 cm tall. It has toothed, bipinnate compound leaves up to 40 cm long and 30 cm broad. The flowers are white, with 4-6 petaloid sepals, and are produced in an erect raceme about 10 cm long. The fruit is an oval glossy black berry, 10-11 mm long and 8 mm diameter.

There are two varieties:

  • Actaea spicata var. spicata. Europe, northwestern Asia; at 0-1900 m altitude.
  • Actaea spicata var. acuminata (syn. A. acuminata). Southwestern Asia, Himalaya, at 2500-3700 m altitude.

Cultivation and uses[edit]

It is an extremely poisonous plant. Despite this, it was used in the past in herbal medicines. It is also grown as an ornamental plant in gardens.

The berries contain cardiogenic toxins which can have an immediate sedative effect on human cardiac muscle tissue, and are the most poisonous part of the plant. Ingestion of the berries can lead to cardiac arrest and death. The berries are harmless to birds, the plants' primary seed dispersers.

References[edit]