Actaea spicata

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Actaea spicata
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Ranunculales
Family: Ranunculaceae
Genus: Actaea
A. spicata
Binomial name
Actaea spicata

Actaea spicata, the baneberry, Eurasian baneberry, or herb Christopher, is a species of flowering plant in the genus Actaea, native to Eastern 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.


  • Flora Europaea: Actaea spicata
  • Nepal Checklist: Actaea spicata var. acuminata
  • "Actaea spicata". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
  • Plants for a Future: Actaea spicata
  • Edible and Medicinal plants of the West, Gregory L. Tilford, ISBN 0-87842-359-1