General Plant Information (Edit)
Plant Habit: Herb/Forb
Life cycle: Perennial
Sun Requirements: Partial Shade to Full Shade
Water Preferences: Mesic
Minimum cold hardiness: Zone 3 -40 °C (-40 °F) to -37.2 °C (-35)
Maximum recommended zone: Zone 8b
Plant Height: 1.5-2.5 feet
Plant Spread: 2-3 feet
Fruit: Showy
Other: Berry toxicity probably is the main reason why wildlife seems to ignore the fruit, with the berry clusters typically persisting on the plants and providing ornamental interest until frost.
Flowers: Inconspicuous
Flower Color: White
Flower Time: Summer
Uses: Will Naturalize
Resistances: Deer Resistant
Toxicity: Leaves are poisonous
Roots are poisonous
Fruit is poisonous
Other: Berries are extremely poisonous if ingested, and consideration should be given to avoid planting this species in areas frequented by young children.

Image
Common names
  • Doll's Eyes
  • Necklace Weed
  • Toadroot
  • Snakeroot
Botanical names
  • Accepted: Actaea pachypoda
  • Synonym: Actaea alba
  • Synonym: Actaea pachypoda f. rubrocarpa

Comments:
  • Posted by BrendaVR (Ontario, Canada - Zone 6a) on Sep 13, 2014 1:26 PM concerning plant:
    I agree that the pedicel color can be useful to identify between Red and White but keep in mind that the colour will be showing only when the berries are ripe. When you have flowers or unripe berries, look to the thickness of the pedicel: slender vs thick. White has thick chunky pedicels.
  • Posted by mellielong (Lutz, Florida - Zone 9b) on Apr 10, 2015 5:39 PM concerning plant:
    "How to Know the Wildflowers" (1922) by Mrs. William Starr Dana has some interesting information on this plant. The author notes that it can be found alongside other plants like Columbine, Wild Ginger, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, and Solomon's Seal as they seek "the same cool shaded nooks". The author further states that the berries "look strikingly like the china eyes that small children occasionally manage to gouge from their dolls' heads."
  • Posted by eclayne (Pioneer Valley south, MA, USA - Zone 6a) on Jul 1, 2014 12:31 PM concerning plant:
    Per the Flora of North America both plants can have red or white berries. The pedicel color appears to be a good way to differentiate between the two.

    Actaea pachypoda:
    Pedicel in fruit bright red, stout...berries white, very rarely red.

    Actaea rubra:
    Pedicel in fruit dull green or brown, slender...berries red or white.
  • Posted by NJBob (Vernon N.J. - Zone 6a) on Sep 27, 2011 12:23 PM concerning plant:
    Interesting but highly toxic plant. All parts of plant toxic.
  • Posted by SongofJoy (Clarksville, TN - Zone 6b) on Jan 15, 2012 4:05 PM concerning plant:
    Common throughout the eastern US in rich soil on north-facing wooded slopes and ravines, Doll's Eyes is best known when it is in fruit and displaying its white berries with dark spots resembling old porcelain doll's eyes. Plants grow about 2 feet tall and a little wider forming clumps of astilbe-like leaves. In late spring, small, puffy, fragrant, white flowers appear on stalks well above the foliage. These are later followed by the white berries, which incidentally, are very poisonous. Grow Doll's Eyes in good, organic, well drained soil in full to part shade. They will disappear and go dormant by early fall, sometimes earlier if it's been very hot. (Sunlight Gardens)

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