Genus of the Week
Week of November 9-15
This page has been created for people who want to learn more about plants, especially in the
context of their taxonomy (Latin names, etc.). This is by no means an exhaustive list of
all available Web resources for a particular genus.
If you like this page, you should also visit the Land of the Glandular Trichomes
, a microscopic look at plants in the Lamiaceae family.
This week's genus:
Subfamily: Helleboroideae (Carpels with +1 ovule)
Tribe: Helleboreae (Regular flowers)
Number of Species: At least 3
Root: From the Greek "acte", meaning "elder", a reference to the resemblance of the
leaves and berries to those of the elder.
Plants in the genus Actaea usually have the common name Baneberry. The White Baneberry
(Actaea pachypoda) is often referred to as "Doll's Eyes", a reference to the shape and
color of the fruits. Another common name for the Baneberry is "Cohosh", but this is not to be
confused with the genus Caulophyllum, also referred to as Cohosh. The fruits of the
Baneberries are poisonous, as the name suggests, but plant extracts are sometimes used in
Here are a few links to images and descriptions of different Actaea species:
- The University of Toronto Botany Department has set up a series of web pages for its
"Families of Vascular Plants" course. Click
here to see photos of both A. pachypoda (White Baneberry) and A. rubra (Red
Baneberry) in fruit.
- Read more about the growing habits of the genus Actaea in the
Time-Life Plant Encyclopedia.
- Find out about the bad things that can happen to you if you
munch on Actaea spp. by visiting the Poisonous Plants of North Carolina web site.
- The Department of Paleoecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Cambridge has
an image of the
pollen of A. spicata.
- Here is a photo of what A. rubra looks like
in flower, from the Plant Systematics Collection at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
- Grieve, M. (C. F. Leyel, ed.). A Modern Herbal. London, Tiger Books International: 1973.
- Heywood, V.H., ed. Flowering Plants of the World. New York, Oxford University Press: 1993.
- Neiring, William A. and Nancy C. Olmstead., eds. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers, Eastern Region. Alfred A. Knopf, New York: 1979.
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