Skip to content.

Some features of this website require Javascript to be enabled for best usibility. Please enable Javascript to run.


Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs


Other Common Names Include:

Blue ginseng, papoose root, squaw root

Latin Name: Caulophyllum thalictroides

Plant Family: Berberidaceae

Close Relatives: Barberry, mayapple

Uses and Markets: Medicinal (e.g. rhizomes and roots are used primarily to treat women’s health issues)

Production Life Cycle in Ontario


Hardiness Zone


Special Notes

Blue cohosh is a forest herb, and therefore requires conditions that mimic a forest floor including shading and mulch. The cultivation requirements of blue cohosh have not been scientifically evaluated and should be used only as guides. 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 blue cohosh seeds that are immediately sown will have some germination the following spring. Seeds that do not germinate the first spring will germinate the following spring or even a year later. Harvest seeds when the blue berries are ripe in late summer.

Field Transplanting Dates

Early fall or spring.

In-row spacing

30-60 cm

Between row spacing

50-80 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 blue cohosh. Click here for phosphorus and potassium application guidelines and for more information on specialty crop fertility.

Soil type

Moist, well-drained soils with high organic matter; will not survive in saturated soils.

Soil pH


Special requirements for growth habit

Shade – requires 75 to 80% shade; requires a mulch, usually straw or leaves, to a depth of 5-10 cm.

Optimal Temperature Range


Temperature sensitivity

Freeze tolerant.

Irrigation requirements

Irrigation is required under normal Ontario conditions. Plants should not be allowed to dry out.

Days to harvest

4-7 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 leaves before flowers emerge and after flowering. Harvest whole tops down to 2.5 cm above the ground at peak bloom for essential oil distillation. A second bloom may occur in the fall.

Harvest Scheduling

Single harvest.

Hand harvest or machine harvest

Machine harvest (modified potato digger); hand harvest (wild-simulated plantings).

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 blue 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. Rhizomes may have to be cut to full clean gnarled rhizomes.

Storage Conditions

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

Temperature (°C): Low temperature storage will prolong 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: None

Diseases: None

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: Black-patched clepsis caterpillar (Clepsis melaleucana), plant bug (Metriorrhynchomiris dislocates)

Diseases: None

*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: none. 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. 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. Hilty, J. 2012. Blue cohosh. Woodland Wildflowers of Illinois.
  3. Persons, W.S. and J.M. Davis. 2005. Growing and marketing ginseng, goldenseal and other woodland medicinals. Bright Mountain Books Inc., Fairview, North Carolina.