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September 1, 2009

Bane Berry and Spikenhard - Harry Potterness in the Backyard


Actaea pachypoda, or Dolls Eyes, reminds us all that Halloween is not far away.

As fall sweeps in with 45 degree F temps last night, I start to notice berries in the yard more than flowers. Two native North American wild plants are in full glory, and they are both not that unrelated. The spooky white berries of Actaea pachypoda ( there is also a red-berried form, both native to Eastern North America. Commonly known as Dolls Eyes, this plant is a transplanted clump. a self-seeded plant, removed from growing behind our chicken coops.The berries are poisonous. I prefer the blossoms of this plant in April, more than the berries, but most folks prefer the silly name, and the obvious reference.

Aralia racemosa, or American Spikenhard ( great name), disp[ays it's berries for the first time, after being planted two years ago, Purchased at the Framingham, MA Garden In The Woods, a spectacular wild flower garden near us in central Massachusetts run by the Massachusetts Wild Flower Society, this plant is finally starting to reach its magnificent promise of being a massive plant, almost tropical in appearance. The berries are a nice bonus, but grow this plant in your shade garden for its foliage. American Spikenard's large roots are aromatic and spicy, they were once used as one of the ingredients in root beer and as a remedy for respiratory ailments in man and domesticated animals. The berries are not considered edible.

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