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FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 3 | Ranunculaceae

8. Cimicifuga Wernischeck, Gen. Pl. 298. 1763.

Bugbane, snakeroot, cohosh [Latin cimex, bug, and fugare, to drive away]

Gwynn W. Ramsey

Herbs , perennial, from hard, knotted, long-lived rhizomes. Leaves basal and cauline, compound, petiolate with basal wings clasping stem; cauline leaves alternate. Leaf blade 1-3-ternately compound; leaflets ovate-lanceolate to broadly obovate or orbiculate, 2-5-lobed, lobe margins toothed or shallow to deeply incised. Inflorescences terminal, many-flowered panicles of racemelike branches [spikes in Asian spp.], 7-60 cm; bracts 1 or 3, alternate, subtending pedicel (pedicels bracteolate in C . americana ), not forming involucre. Flowers bisexual [unisexual], radially symmetric; sepals not persistent in fruit, (2-)4-5(-6), greenish white or cream to greenish yellow, sometimes pinkish or tinged with red, plane or ± concave, ovate to obovate, 3-6 mm; petals 0-8, distinct, white or yellowish, plane, apex 2-cleft [entire], sometimes clawed, 3-6 mm; nectariferous area sometimes present; stamens 20-110; filaments filiform [flattened]; staminodes absent between stamens and pistils; pistils 1-8, simple; ovules 4-15 per pistil; style present. Fruits follicles, usually aggregate, sessile or stipitate, ovoid to obovoid, weakly to strongly compressed, sides not prominently veined; beak terminal, straight or hooked at tip, 0.5-2.5 mm. Seeds pale brown to reddish or purplish brown, angled or laterally compressed, hemispheric, lenticular, or cylindric, smooth, slightly ridged, verrucose, or densely scaly. x = 8.

Species 12 (6 in the flora): North America and Eurasia.

Cimicifuga may be divided into two natural groups: those with seeds scaly and those with seeds lacking scales or nearly so. Cimicifuga racemosa and C . elata of North America, with scaleless seeds, are most closely related to C . biternata (Siebold & Zuccarini) Miquel and C . japonica (Thunberg) Sprengel of Asia.

Four or five species of Cimicifuga are cultivated as ornamentals, and at least five named cultivars have been developed.


Compton, J. 1992. Cimicifuga L.: Ranunculaceae. Plantsman 14(2): 99-115. Ramsey, G. W. 1965. A Biosystematic Study of the Genus Cimicifuga (Ranunculaceae). Ph.D. thesis. University of Tennessee. Ramsey, G. W. 1987. Morphological considerations in North American Cimicifuga. Castanea 52: 129-141.

1 Seeds without scales or scales very short; stigma 0.5 mm wide.   (2)
+ Seeds scaly; stigma minute, 0.2–0.3 mm wide.   (3)
2 (1) Follicles ovoid; seeds hemispheric, smooth or ±rough-ridged, brown; pedicel subtended by 1 bract; base of terminal leaflet with 3 prominent veins; petals (1–)4(–8), oblong; e North America.   1 Cimicifuga racemosa
+ Follicles oblong; seeds lenticular, usually verrucose, rarely with very short scales, reddish to purplish brown; pedicel subtended by 3 bracts; base of terminal leaflet with 5–7 prominent veins; petals absent; w North America.   2 Cimicifuga elata
3 (1) Pistils sessile, 1–2(–4 in C. arizonica); seeds lenticular, covering of scales giving cylindric appearance.   (4)
+ Pistils short-stipitate, (2–)3–8; seeds lenticular, scales not causing cylindric appearance.   (5)
4 (3) Petals absent; filaments 3–5 mm; pistils 1(–2), sparsely glandular; style short, straight or slightly recurved; terminal leaflet deeply cordate with 5–9 prominent veins at base; e North America.   3 Cimicifuga rubifolia
+ Petals (0–)2; filaments 5–8 mm; pistils 1–3(–4), glandular; style long, hooked; terminal leaflet somewhat cordate with 3 prominent veins at base; w North America.   4 Cimicifuga arizonica
5 (3) Pistils glabrous; pedicel bracteolate, granular; petiole glabrous; seeds ca. 3.5 mm, covered with broad, lacerate scales; stamens 40–70; filaments 6–10 mm; e North America.   5 Cimicifuga americana
+ Pistils densely pubescent; pedicel not bracteolate; petiole densely pubescent; seeds ca. 2.5–3 mm, loosely covered with narrow, lacerate scales; stamens 20–25; filaments 4–5 mm; w North America.   6 Cimicifuga laciniata

Lower Taxa


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