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Common Herb Species of the Northwest Forest

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Actaea rubra
Red Baneberry
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Red Baneberry Description

General - normally solitary perennial from fleshy rootstalk (rhizome); erect, hairless, stem once-branched, few to numerous leaves, 30-80 cm high.

Leaves - alternate; few and large and wide-spreading; compound, divided 2 or 3 times into groups of 3 segments; leaflets egg-shaped with coarsely sharp-toothed or lobed margins 2 to 3 cm long.

Flowers - in dense, long-stalked, many-flowered and rounded clusters; individual flowers small (about 7 mm across) with 4-10 narrow, white petals and numerous whitish stamens; appearing late May and early June, quickly falling off.

Fruit -several-seeded glossy, red (sometimes white) berries on thin, individual stalks; ripening in July and August.

Habitat

Found throughout the North American boreal forest. Occasional; mostly in hardwood and mixed-wood forest habitats on fresh or moist, fine-textured mineral soils.

Notes

All parts of the White Baneberry are poisonous. The berries are of particular concern since they are most likely to be eaten. Toxic effects include cramps, headaches, vomiting and dizziness, although no deaths have been reported in North America. The name Baneberry refers to the plant's toxicity, being derived from the Anglo-Saxon word for "murderous" - bana. It is infrequently encountered in rich forest habitats.

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