Actaea simplex

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Actaea simplex (DC.) Wormsk. ex Prantl


Life form: perennial
Usage: ornamental plant

Exposure: half shade   5

Moisture: moist

Soil: loam

Arrangement: alternate
Leaves: decidious

Shape: ovate

Division: tripinnate


Shape: five-stellate
Fruit: follicle

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Inflorescence: raceme

Petals: single
Habit: not specified

Growth form: stemless



Actaea simplex, commonly known as Kamchatka bugbane, is a perennial with erect white inflorescences.


Actaea simplex was already described and the name validly published by Augustin Pyramus de Candolle. It was Karl Anton Eugen Prantl, however, who reclassified it into todays valid botanical systematics in 1887 based on a prior description by Morten Wormskjold.


Actaea simplex is a species in the genus Actaea which contains approximately 37 to 45 species and belongs to the family of the Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family).


Actaea simplex - flowers
Actaea simplex - infrutescence
Actaea simplex (foreground) with Aconitum x arendsii 'Mittelstand'


The perennials grow in uprigth tufts and reach heights of 1 to 1,2 metres. The plants reach a width of 20 to 40 centimetres. The stems are usually glabrous but sometimes are white pilose at the tips.


Actaea simplex is deciduous with dark-green, alternate leaves. The lower leaves are mostly bi- to tri-pinnate, the upper ones usually bi- to imparipinnate. The leaflets are ovate with dentate margins, the terminal leaflet is usually tripalmate. The inner leaflets are petiolate, the outer ones mostly sessile. The leaflets are 3 to 8,3 cm long, forming leaves that are 60 to 80 cm long. The surface is glabrous. The leaves turn an attractive dark red in autumn.

Flowers and Fruits

From September to October Actaea simplex produces white five-stellate flowers that are arranged in up to 35 cm long racemes. The inflorescences are usually unbranched but sometimes may be branched at the base. The plants are hermaphroditic.

The perennials produce ornamental brown follicles in autumn.

Root System

The plants form robust blackish rhizomes.


Actaea simplex is native to Japan, the Kamtschatka Peninsula, Manchuria and Sakhalin.


The perennials prefer a half-shady situation on moist soil. The substrate should be loamy soil with a pH between 6,5 and 7,5. They tolerate temperatures down to -29°C (USDA zone 5).

Classification after Prof. Dr. Sieber

  • woodland borders (soil usually rich in humus)
  • woods (soil usually rich in organic material)


The ornamental value of Actaea simplex lies not only in its attractive flowers but also in its fragrance, the ornamental fruits and the autumn foliage. The recommended planting distance is 90 centimetres, the perennials are best planted in groups of 3 to 10. Suited for beds and borders, as well as suited as bee pasture.

Maintenance and Propagation

  • If possible the plants should not be transplanted.

Propagate by sowing or by division.


The selection of cultivars focuses mainly on the colour of the flowers and the leaves. There are for example cultivars with pink flowers or red leaves.

  • Actaea simplex 'Atropurpurea' - white flowers, purple leaves
  • Actaea simplex 'Brunette' - white flowers, purple stems and leaves
  • Actaea simplex 'Pink Spire' - flowers pale pink, later pink
  • Actaea simplex 'White Pearl' - white flowers, branched, inflorescences slightly arching

Pests and Diseases


  • Walter Erhardt, Erich Götz, Nils Bödeker, Siegmund Seybold: Der große Zander. Eugen Ulmer KG, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-8001-5406-7. (Ger.)
  • Christoper Brickell (Editor-in-chief): RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. Third edition. Dorling Kindersley, London 2003, ISBN 0-7513-3738-2.

Non-commercial Links

Actaea simplex (as Cimicifuga simplex) in the Flora of Chinaes:Actaea simplex

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