Plant of the Week
Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus (Walter) Fernald)
By Betty Charnon
Goatsbeard, also known as bride’s feathers, is a perennial forb in the rose (Rosaceae) family. Native to the northern hemisphere in North America, Europe, and Asia, this plant generally grows in moist woods, meadows, and along streams. It is also known to grow in moist to wet ravines, rocky ledges, and avalanche chutes. In south-central and southeastern Alaska, goatsbeard grows abundantly in forest edges and along roads and railroad embankments.
Goatsbeard is a very showy plant growing up to six feet tall in large bushy clumps. Feathery clusters of tiny cream colored flowers grow on long branched spikes high above the leaves and bloom from late May through mid July. Goatsbeard is a dioecious plant meaning each plant has either all female flowers or all male flowers. Plants with male flowers produce showier blooms than plants with female flowers. The word “Aruncus” comes from the Greek word aryngos (goat’s beard) and refers to the plume of flowers. The bi-pinnately compound leaves are toothed and lower leaves tend to be larger than higher leaves.
The spectacular display of goatsbeard makes it a popular choice for gardeners, particularly those who like to garden with native flora. Goatsbeard can be started from seed, but takes a long time to grow and become established. They are also easily transplanted and grow well in moist, rich soil and sites with partial shade. In the northern part of its range, goatsbeard also thrives in full sun.
Native Americans have used goatsbeard for medicinal purposes. For example, poultices made from the roots have been used on sores. Infusions from the roots have been used for a variety of cures including rheumatism, sore throats, fevers, and blood disease.