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Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Black Cohosh

Other Common Names Include:

Black snakeroot, cohosh bugbane, fairy candle

Latin Name: Actaea racemosa

Plant Family: Ranunculaceae

Close Relatives: Goldenseal, red baneberry, delphinium, buttercup

Uses and Markets: Medicinal (e.g. rhizomes are used to treatment of symptoms associated with menopause and childbirth, respiratory disorders)

A field of black cohosh under artificial shade Black cohosh flower heads
Production Life Cycle in Ontario


Hardiness Zone


Special Notes

Black cohosh is a forest herb, and therefore requires conditions that mimic a forest floor including shading and mulch. Establish on raised beds similar to ginseng production.

Propagation method

Most commonly by rhizome cuttings or direct seeding.

Greenhouse Seeding/Propagation Dates


Field Seeding Date:

Late summer to fall. Fresh black cohosh seeds that are immediately sown will have some germination the following spring. Seeds that do not germinate the first spring will likely germinate the following spring. Harvest seeds when the seed capsules are dry in early fall.

Field Transplanting Dates

Early fall or spring.

In-row spacing

45-60 cm

Between row spacing

45-120 cm

Optimal Soil temperature at planting



No current Ontario fertility recommendations exist. Research and recommendations from outside Ontario do not necessarily apply to Ontario growing conditions. Research has not been conducted into the nitrogen requirements of black cohosh. Click here for phosphorus and potassium application guidelines and for more information on specialty crop fertility.

Soil type

Well-drained soils, sandy to sandy loam soils; will not survive in saturated soils.

Soil pH


Special requirements for growth habit

Shade – requires 30 to 50% of full sunlight; black cohosh requires a mulch, usually straw, to a depth of 5-10 cm.

Optimal Temperature Range


Temperature sensitivity

Freeze tolerant.

Irrigation requirements

Irrigation beneficial under normal Ontario conditions.

Days to harvest

3-5 years

Specialized equipment

Specialized equipment is available for marking out posts, bed formation, seeding, straw spreading, erecting shade, harvesting, and drying, since production requirements are very similar to those of ginseng. Production in a forest environment is possible without the need for artificial shade.

Harvest Scheduling

Single harvest

Hand harvest or machine harvest

Machine harvest (modified potato digger).

Quality parameters/grades

No established grades. Quality is determined by the market.

Additional Harvest Notes

Usually harvested in September or October when medicinally active components are at their peak.

Post harvest
Special handling/curing

Harvested black cohosh is usually washed and then dried soon after harvest in forced air kilns, with an optimum drying temperature of around 38°C or less.

Storage Conditions

Relative humidity (RH): Dried product is stored in plastic-lined barrels after drying to slow re-hydration but storage under low humidity will prolong shelf-life.

Temperature: Low temperature storage will improve shelf-life.

Air Exchange: N/A

Duration: 1-2 years

Specific pests observed on this crop in Ontario (observations based on limited experience with this crop)

Insects and Invertebrates: Slugs

Diseases: Damping off (Rhizoctonia)

Other Potential Pests: The following pests have not been observed on this crop in Ontario. However, they are either significant concerns for closely related plants in Ontario, or are reported on this crop in other production areas. This is not a comprehensive list of all potential pests. Not all of these pests will necessarily survive Ontario’s climate, but could potentially survive in a protected environment (e.g. greenhouse, storage facility).

Insects and Invertebrates: Cutworms, leaf-eating beetle

Diseases: Phytophthora root rot, leaf spots (e.g. Ascochyta, Phyllosticta), root knot nematode, root rots (e.g. Rhizoctonia, Pythium), rust, smut

Other: Deer, rabbits

*Indicates pests commonly mentioned as causing significant damage or economic loss to this crop in other regions.


To date the following pests have been the most significant in Ontario: Rhizoctonia damping-off. This crop is not in a crop group. For more information on Crop Groups, refer to the Pest section.  Always refer to product labels, and follow all directions specified on the label, before applying any pest control product.  For more information, consult an OMAFRA specialist. .

Additional Notes


Ontario Research Projects Used to Create This Profile
  1. Reeleder, R.D. 2003. The ginseng root pathogens Cylindrocarpon destructans and Phytophthora cactorum are not pathogenic to the medicinal herbs Hydrastis canadensis and Actaea racemosa. Canadian Journal of Plant Pathology 25: 218-221.
  2. Westerveld, S., Elford, E., Filotas, M. and J. Todd. 2010-present. OMAFRA herb demonstration garden. OMAFRA Simcoe Resource Centre, unpublished.
  1. Bown, D. 1996. Encyclopedia of herbs and their uses. BCA, London
  2. Greenfield, J. and J.M. Davis. 2006. Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa L.). NC State University, Horticulture Information Leaflets.
  3. Pengelly, A. and K. Bennett. 2012. Appalachian plant monographs – black cohosh Actaea racemosa L. Appalachian Centre for Ethnobotanical Studies. 
  4. Persons, W.S. and J.M. Davis. 2005. Growing and marketing ginseng, goldenseal and other woodland medicinals. Bright Mountain Books Inc., Fairview, North Carolina.