Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Actaea rubra


SPECIES: Actaea rubra
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Crane, M. F. 1990. Actaea rubra. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].

ABBREVIATION : ACTRUB SYNONYMS : NO-ENTRY SCS PLANT CODE : ACRU2 COMMON NAMES : red baneberry cohosh red cohosh necklaceweed snakeberry poison de couleuvre TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name of red baneberry is Actaea rubra (Aiton) Willd. [32,38,40,57,67]. In the past there has been disagreement over how the closely related members of this genus should be recognized. Within the species, two subspecies, ssp. arguta and ssp. rubra, are sometimes defined [40]. Many authors do not consider subspecies designation necessary [32,38,57,67]. Subspecies will not be considered separately here. LIFE FORM : Forb FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Actaea rubra
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Red baneberry is found in moist woods in the Northern Temperate Zone of North America and Eurasia [57,59].  Its range in western North America extends from Alaska south through the Coast Ranges and the Sierra Nevada in California through the Rocky Mountains to Arizona and New Mexico.  It is distributed transcontinentally across northern North America from the West Coast to New England and Labrador.  In the East and Midwest, it reaches its southern limits in New Jersey, Indiana, Iowa, and Kansas [32,38,57,72]. ECOSYSTEMS :    FRES11  Spruce - fir    FRES18  Maple - beech - birch    FRES19  Aspen - birch    FRES20  Douglas-fir    FRES21  Ponderosa pine    FRES22  Western white pine    FRES23  Fir - spruce    FRES25  Larch    FRES26  Lodgepole pine    FRES27  Redwood STATES :      AK  AZ  CA  CO  CT  HI  ID  IN  IA  KS      ME  MA  MI  MN  MT  NE  NH  NJ  NM  NY      ND  OH  OR  PA  RI  SD  UT  VT  WA  WV      WI  WY  AB  BC  LB  MB  NB  NF  NS  ON      PE  PQ  KS BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :     1  Northern Pacific Border     2  Cascade Mountains     3  Southern Pacific Border     4  Sierra Mountains     5  Columbia Plateau     8  Northern Rocky Mountains     9  Middle Rocky Mountains    11  Southern Rocky Mountains    12  Colorado Plateau    14  Great Plains    15  Black Hills Uplift    16  Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :    K002  Cedar - hemlock - Douglas-fir forest    K003  Silver fir - Douglas-fir forest    K005  Mixed conifer forest    K006  Redwood forest    K007  Red fir forest    K008  Lodgepole pine - subalpine forest    K012  Douglas-fir forest    K013  Cedar - hemlock - pine forest    K014  Grand fir - Douglas-fir forest    K015  Western spruce - fir forest    K018  Pine - Douglas-fir forest    K020  Spruce - fir - Douglas-fir forest    K021  Southwestern spruce - fir forest    K093  Great Lakes spruce - fir forest    K095  Great Lakes pine forest    K106  Northern hardwoods    K107  Northern hardwoods - fir forest SAF COVER TYPES :      5  Balsam fir     16  Aspen     18  Paper birch     21  Eastern white pine     25  Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch     26  Sugar maple - basswood    107  White spruce    204  Black spruce    205  Mountain hemlock    206  Engelmann spruce - subalpine fir    210  Interior Douglas-fir    211  White fir    212  Western larch    213  Grand fir    215  Western white pine    216  Blue spruce    217  Aspen    219  Limber pine    221  Red alder    222  Black cottonwood - willow    224  Western hemlock    226  Coastal true fir - hemlock    228  Western redcedar    229  Pacific Douglas-fir    230  Douglas-fir - western hemlock    232  Redwood    235  Cottonwood - willow SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Presence of red baneberry frequently indicates moist sites [35,75].  In British Columbia's subboreal spruce (Picea glauca x engelmannii) zone, its presence may differentiate seral stages of the spruce/devil's club (Oplopanax horridus) ecosystem from other seral, mesic spruce ecosystems [33].  Publications listing red baneberry as an indicator or dominant part of vegetation in community types (cts), habitat types (hts), plant associations (pas), forest ecosystem associations (eas), or riparian site types (rst) are listed below: Coniferous forest habitat types of northern Utah [51]. Forest habitat types of eastern Idaho-western Wyoming [70]. Forest habitat types of Montana [60].


SPECIES: Actaea rubra
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE : IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Red baneberry's overall importance to livestock and wildlife is low, since it is not normally abundant.  In Montana, elk utilize red baneberry foliage in the fall because it remains green after early frosts.  Elk use in summer is more limited [46,82].  In Utah mule deer use of red baneberry was moderate; it was eaten most frequently in the fall [47,68].  White-tailed deer consume a moderate amount of red baneberry.  Its value to pronghorn is poor [35]. Livestock use of red baneberry is low [21,71].  There are reports of horses eating it in Montana and sheep eating it in Idaho.  However, it is not normally grazed unless other forage is scarce [20]. Red baneberry fruit is consumed by several bird species including the yellow-bellied sapsucker, American robin, wood thrush, gray-cheeked thrush, brown thrasher, gray catbird, and grouse [50,81].  Some small mammals also eat the berries including deer mice, white-footed mice, red squirrel, eastern chipmunks, and red-backed voles [50,81].  Several species of birds that use baneberry eat the fruit but void the seeds, while some of the small mammals remove and eat the seeds leaving the the pulp [81]. PALATABILITY : Palatability to elk in Montana and to mule deer in Utah is highest in the fall [68,82].  Red baneberry has low palatability to domestic sheep and cattle [71].  The relish and degree of use shown by livestock and wildlife species for red baneberry in two western states is rated as follows [21]:                         CO         UT       Cattle                 poor       poor     Sheep                  poor       fair     Horses                 poor       poor     Pronghorn              ----       poor     Elk                    ----       fair     Mule deer              ----       fair     Small mammals          ----       fair     Small nongame birds    ----       good     Upland game birds      ----       fair     Waterfowl              ----       poor     NUTRITIONAL VALUE : Red baneberry's energy and protein value are rated as poor [21].  Red baneberry's name comes from a poisonous essential oil or glycoside (protoanemonin) found in all parts of the plant but most concentrated in the berries and root [43,72].  Symptoms of poisoning include gastroenteritis, stomach cramps, headache, dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea and circulatory failure [72]. COVER VALUE : Red baneberry provides fair cover for small nongame birds and mammals in Utah but poor cover for upland game birds and big game mammals [21]. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : In some western states red baneberry is listed as having low to moderate value for erosion control and revegetation potential, with moderate biomass production [21].  Growth is listed as good on gentle slopes and fair on moderate and steep slopes [21].  The plant is easily grown from seed [44].  Stratification and a very moist seeding mixture are necessary for germination [24,86].  The rootstock or caudex is easy to transplant in the fall or spring when the plant is dormant [87]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : Red baneberry has attractive foliage and brilliantly beautiful berries. The berries are unpalatable and can cause illness to people eating them [7,37].  With due caution for its poisonous attributes, red baneberry is easily grown in woodland gardens and very attractive when interspersed with ferns [7,44,48,54]. Native Americans in Alberta and British Columbia used a weak decoction made from the roots as a stimulant in treating colds, arthritis, syphilis, rheumatism, and emaciation.  They also chewed leaves and put them on boils and wounds to stimulate blood flow into the area [88]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Red baneberry does not appear to compete seriously with young conifers [62].  Following various logging treatments in northwestern Montana, red baneberry's presence decreased, but it maintained or very slightly increased its cover [29,30].  The limited information on the effects of various treatments seems to indicate that mechanical site preparation may uproot plants and decrease the cover of red baneberry [33,56].


SPECIES: Actaea rubra
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Red baneberry is a deciduous, perennial herb, usually from 1 to 3 feet (4-10 dm) tall with one to several branched stems [37,38].  Perennating tissue appears to be a vertical caudex just under the soil surface [Stickney, P., pers. comm. 1990] but has also been described as a rootstock [37,38] or a rhizome [72].  The leaves are alternate, two to three times compound, sharply toothed and lobed. The flowers have small white petals, showy stamens, and a roselike fragrance [59].  Flowers are borne in a terminal or axillary raceme and pollinated by a variety of insects [59].  These flowers can be self-fertile, although they are not capable of apomixis [59].  In Michigan the most common pollinator is an introduced beetle (Phyllobius oblongus), which uses the inflorescences as mating sites and does not ingest the pollen.  Fruit set is normally close to 100 percent [59]. The fruits are showy, poisonous, red or occasionally white berries [38,58].  Each berry contains 9 to 16 red-brown, sector-shaped seeds 0.1 to 1.5 inches (3-4 mm) long [32,72]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :       Geophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : The seed of red baneberry requires a dormant period and usually takes 2 years to germinate [86].  During a laboratory study of seed collected in the fall, germination began 243 days following sowing.  Only 8.8 percent of the seeds germinated; survival was 50 percent in the sun and 64.3 percent in the shade [61].  Seedling growth was good in both sun and shade.  While survival was better in the shade, seedlings in the sun were slightly larger and had more biomass allocated to roots [61]. Seedlings begin to bloom in their third year [86]. The fruit appears to be adapted to bird dispersal, although in the only recent study of fruit use, insect and small mammal predation of seeds was higher than use of the pulp by birds.  Fruit color did not seem to be related to the amount of insect predation, fruit weight, number of fruits per stem, or seeds per fruit; however, nocturnal use of white fruit was higher [81].  Chipmunks may bury the seed [87]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Red baneberry grows best on cool, moist, nutrient-rich sites [6,13,20,34,51,62].  Along the West Coast, these sites are moister and richer than mesic and mesotrophic [62,77].  In the dense forest areas of southeastern Alaska red baneberry grows on open streambanks and in meadows [74].  In British Columbia it grows under spruce, spruce and black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa), or spruce, subalpine fir, and aspen (Populus tremuloides) forests with black twinberry (Lonicera involucrata), thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus), bluejoint reedgrass (Calamagrostis canadensis), and horsetails (Equisetum spp.) [36,62].  On the west slope of the Rocky Mountains in Washington, it grows with ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) in river canyons extending out into the grasslands [78].  In Oregon it is identified as an indicator of moist sites with cold soil temperatures [28,52].  In the South Umpqua River Basin of southwestern Oregon, it is found only on such sites [52].  In Oregon it may also be found in seepage, marshy, and other moist areas with red alder (Alnus rubra), bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum), vine maple (A. circinatum), and sedges (Carex spp.) [4].  In the Siskiyou Mountains of Oregon and California, it occurs at middle elevations, from 3,950 to 5,950 feet (1,200-1,800 m) on diorite soils under relatively open stands dominated by Douglas-fir and white fir (Abies concolor) [80].  It also extends to high-elevation sites dominated by red fir (A. magnifica) [6].  It is tolerant of low light intensity in the coastal redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) region [77]. In the northern Rocky Mountains it is an understory species in moist and very moist subalpine forests and riparian areas [8,26,64,71,76,83,84]. It appears to grow equally well on north and south exposures [55].  In the Rocky Mountain subalpine fir forests of eastern Washington and Idaho it is only found with the moist-site shrubs and herbs that Daubenmire and Daubenmire [19] called the "Pachistima union" [28].  In Alberta it grows under climax white spruce (Picea glauca) in valleys and lower slopes [53].  Red baneberry is a dominant herb in very moist aspen stands in the Black Hills [66].  In Utah it can be found in mountain brush, willow-birch (Betula spp.), aspen, Douglas-fir, limber pine (Pinus flexilis), subalpine fir, and Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii) communities [79].  In the southern Rocky Mountains of New Mexico, red baneberry grows in corkbark fir (A. lasiocarpa var arizonica) and Engelmann spruce forests with Senecio sanguisorboides, twinberry, wolf currant (Ribes wolfii), and gooseberry currant (R. montigenum) [22].  Other plants frequently associated with it in the Rocky Mountains include pachistima (Pachistima myrsinites), baldhip rose (Rosa gymnocarpa), woods rose (R. woodsii), narrowleaf cottonwood (Populus angustifolia), aspen, blue spruce (Picea pungens), grand fir (Abies grandis), blue huckleberry (Vaccinium globulare), thinleaf alder (Alnus incana ssp. tenuifolia), willows (Salix spp.), redosier dogwood (Cornus sericea), black twinberry, Drummond willow (Salix drummondiana), sweetscented bedstraw (Galium triflorum), western meadowrue (Thalictrum occidentale), starry solomon plume (Smilacina stellata), and mountain bluebells (Mertensia ciliata). In Minnesota baneberry (Actaea spp.) grows on a wide range of sites but prefers partial to full shade and moderately moist, nutrient-rich soils [9].  Red baneberry is not one of the most important herbs, but it is scattered throughout red and white pine (Pinus resinosa and P. strobus) forests and forests dominated by sugar maple (Acer saccharum) and other hardwoods from Minnesota to New England [11,17,18,69].  In Wisconsin where its range overlaps that of white baneberry (Actaea pachypoda), red baneberry's presence is highest in boreal forest, while white baneberry is more common in mesic, northern Wisconsin, mixed-hardwood forests [15].  In the Saint Lawrence Valley it is normally restricted to climax or near climax forest [16].  In northeastern Saskatchewan it is found near lake and stream margins with willows, sedges, and reedgrass (Calamagrostis spp.) [5]. In Colorado and Utah red baneberry's growth is fair to good on sandy loam, loam and clay loam soils and poor to fair on gravel, sand, clay, and dense clay [21].  Its growth is best on organic and acidic soils that are at least 20 inches (51 cm) deep and poor on saline or sodic soils [21]. Elevational ranges in some western regions are [13,21,37,57]:                      Minimum                   Maximum                    feet       meters         feet      meters Alberta            1,650        500           4,900     1,500 California         sea level                 10,000     3,048 Colorado           7,000      2,134          11,500     3,505 Montana            4,500      1,372           6,600     2,012 New Mexico         8,000      2,438           9,500     2,896 Utah               4,500      1,372          10,000     3,048 Wyoming            4,500      1,372          12,300     3,750 SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Facultative Seral Species Throughout its range, red baneberry is found in both early seral and mature forests [11,15,16,18,36,53,62,69,77].  Results of a study in southwestern Oregon indicated that red baneberry cover was similar at light levels ranging from full sunlight to less than 3.5 percent of full sunlight [23].  In northern Idaho the amount of tree cover does not appear to affect the frequency of red baneberry [55].  Red baneberry plants generally are scattered so that changes in population size over time are difficult to measure.  Results of a north-central Idaho study in a grand fir/pachistima habitat type indicated that red baneberry had higher cover values in early succession, although it was still present in near-climax stands [85]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : In Minnesota forests, the leaves and flowers of red baneberry appear in the first 3 weeks of the growing season, and the leaves begin to wither and die by midsummer [17].  Across its range, red baneberry blooms from May to July and fruits from August to October [27].  In Michigan, flowering began between the May 20 and 30 and lasted 10 to 20 days. Where red baneberry grows with white baneberry (A. pachypoda), it always begins blooming 3 to 5 days earlier [59].  In New England flowering is from May 9 to June 10 [67].  In northern Idaho flowering is from May to July [58,76].  In Utah and North Dakota flowering begins in May and ends by late June or early July, while in Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming, bloom begins in June and ends in August [21].


SPECIES: Actaea rubra
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Red baneberry is a perennial herb with a thick caudex that is buried in the soil [14,42,85].  It frequently grows in moist microsites where fire severity and frequency may be lower [14,42]. FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :    Caudex, growing points in soil    Secondary colonizer - off-site seed


SPECIES: Actaea rubra
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Fire generally kills aboveground portions of red baneberry.  The caudex appears to survive many fires, although information on the effects of differing fire severities is lacking. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : During a study of early postfire recovery using the same plots over time, red baneberry sprouted, grew vigorously, and produced fruit the first year after fire.  However, no seedlings were observed during the next 5 years [14,42].  Permanent plots were used to follow recovery after the Sundance fire in northern Idaho [73]; here seedlings of red baneberry were found in the fifteenth postfire growing season [Peter Stickney, pers. comm. 1990].  In British Columbia's subboreal spruce zone, cover of red baneberry increased in first year plots following either fire or mechanical site preparation [33].  Following clearcutting and burning in north-central Idaho, red baneberry had higher cover values in first and third year plots [85].  A northern Idaho study found little difference between red baneberry cover on undisturbed sites, piled and burned sites, and sites with single or multiple broadcast burns [56]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : Hamilton's Research Papers (Hamilton 2006a, Hamilton 2006b) provide information on many plant species, including red baneberry, that was not available when this species review was originally written. FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Actaea rubra
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