Here’s looking at you

Perhaps I should have saved this plant for the end of October because it is really rather creepy. The common name of doll’s eyes sums it up quite well, especially if, like me, you find dolls unsettling. For most of the year Actaea pachypoda is not terribly exciting. It is a hardy, herbaceous plant with deeply divided leaves often compared with astilbes and the terminal clusters of flowers are without petals or nectar and are tufty rosettes of cream stamens about 1cm across. Recently actaea and cimicifuga have been merged but if you know what the ‘old’ cimicifuga look like you can imagine the flowers. They are not insignificant but they, alone, would not make this a decent garden plant.

But after they fade they are followed by ‘berries’ that start green but mature white. It is the pedicels (individual flower stems) that make the plant interesting as they turn red when the berries ripen. Perhaps this is to attract birds to eat the berries which they would otherwise ignore, though it would be easier to do what its cousin does (Actaea rubra) and produce red berries! Whatever the reason, the result is a striking autumn display that remains well into autumn.

Actaea pachypoda (pachy – poda means ‘thick foot’ because of the red pedicels) is a plant of North American woodland in the east and, in the garden it needs shade and a moist, acid soil. Having said that, my young plant is in a partially shaded bed which was improved to the best of my ability before planting and is rather wet in winter and has been dry this summer. From a 9cm pot when planted last spring it has grown into a youngster with three stems and two flower clusters 60cm high this year so I am confident it has settled in. The leaves are usually yellow in autumn but they are all crisp this year. It will tolerate quite deep shade once established.

It is not easy to tell but this is related to buttercups, in the Ranunculaceae but like so many of them, it is poisonous so is not a logical choice for gardens with children as the beadlike berries may be tempting.

,

3 Comments on “Here’s looking at you”

  1. Chris Mousseau
    September 4, 2022 at 12:05 pm #

    I planted several when we moved here many years ago; they’ve survived in the non acidic dry soil, and even spread a bit. I discovered a large plant earlier this year at the base of a pine tree, A good 100 feet from the original plants. Amazing how adaptable plants are!

    • thebikinggardener
      September 5, 2022 at 8:41 am #

      That must be a seedling! I hope they don’t spread that far by the roots! Good that it has done so well in dry shade – there is hope for mine.

  2. Paddy Tobin
    September 4, 2022 at 9:24 pm #

    A nice plant.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sweetgum and Pines

gardening in the North Carolina piedmont

Ravenscourt Gardens

Learning life's lessons in the garden!

RMW: the blog

Roslyn's photography, art, cats, exploring, writing, life

Paddy Tobin, An Irish Gardener

Our garden, gardens visited, occasional thoughts and book reviews

AltroVerde

un altro blog sul giardinaggio...

vegetablurb

four decades of organic vegetable gardening and barely a clue

The Long Garden Path

A walk round the Estate!

ontheedgegardening

Gardening on the edge of a cliff

Uprooted Magnolia

I'm Leah, a freelance Photographer born and raised in Macon, GA, USA. I spent 8 years in the wild west and this is my photo journal on life, love, and the spirit of Wyoming. Welcome to Uprooted Magnolia.

Interesting Literature

A Library of Literary Interestingness

Garden Variety

A Gardening, Outdoor Lifestyle and Organic Food & Drink Blog

For the Love of Iris

Articles, Tips and Notes from Schreiner's Iris Gardens

One Bean Row

Words and pictures from an Irish garden by Jane Powers

Plant Heritage

We are working to save garden plants for people to use and enjoy today and tomorrow

HERITAGE IRISES

An English persons experience of living and gardening in Ireland

%d bloggers like this: