Jul 20 2010

Summer Beauty: Black Cohosh

Published by at 7:16 am under Plants


Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) is blooming now in Pennsylvania’s woods.  The flower is white, it’s the root that’s “black.”

The plants are three to nine feet tall topped by a spire of branching, fuzzy-looking flowers.  The spire makes up a third of the plant’s height and normally stands straight (this specimen is leaning) so the flowers appear to float high above the vegetation. 

I encountered a large stand of Black Cohosh a week ago at Moraine State Park.  Amazingly, I didn’t notice it at first.  I bent over to identify another flower and when I straightened up I saw the cohosh everywhere like a ghostly army of flowers, white against the cool green of the forest.

Black Cohosh flowers look beautiful but they smell bad.  The purpose is to attract flies, gnats and beetles for pollination. 

If you ever have a doubt about identifying this plant, take a whiff.  Eeeeew!

(photo by Chuck Tague)

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