White Baneberry

White Baneberry
White Baneberry. Actaea Pachypoda.
Ranunculaceae, the buttercup or crowfoot family.

Plant: Upright plant 1'-2' high, with large, highly divided leaves, and (usually) a single, dense, oblong, cluster of small, starburst-like, white flowers. Perennial.
Flowers: White, in a dense, oblong, cluster (a raceme), 1/2" - 1.5" long. Individual flowers are small, about 1/4" across, and have a starburst appearance due to the many stamens, and small, rounded petals that often drop off early. The stalks (pedicels) attaching the flowers to the main stalk (peduncle) are relatively stout. This distinguishes the flowers from those of the Red Baneberry (Actaea rubra) which have longer, thread-like pedicels.
Leaves: Opposite, twice or three times pinnately compound. Leaflets 1'-3" long, ovate, and sharply toothed.
Fruit: An cluster of shiny white berries with black dots in the center, and stout red stems.
Blooming: May-June
Habitat: Deciduous woods

Comments: The unique white berries with white dots are sometimes called "doll's eyes". The whole plant, but especially the berries, is highly toxic. Eating only a few can cause serious illness, or even death in children. Certain birds are unaffected, and these distribute the seeds. The closely related Red Baneberry has very similar flowers as noted above, but the berries are generally bright red (except in a white variety). The red form is also highly toxic.

Where to find it: Widely scattered through the upper woods of the park, the plant is not difficult to find, but is not nearly as common as some of the other spring flowers. It opens after most of the earliest flowers have gone.