Regularity: Regularly occurring
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Global Range: This species range is the Pacific Northwest, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, Canada. In Oregon, it occurs in the western Cascades and Willamette Valley of western Oregon from Jackson County in the south to the Washington/Oregon border.
Comments: Moist, shady woods, mostly at lower elevations, especially north-facing slopes in mature Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum) forests.
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
Comments: About 200 occurrences known in Oregon; unknown how many populations have been found in Washington and British Columbia.
Life History and Behavior
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N1 - Critically Imperiled
Rounded National Status Rank: N3 - Vulnerable
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G3 - Vulnerable
Reasons: This species is limited to the Pacific Northwest. There are some very large populations in southern Oregon with other smaller populations scattered throughout western Oregon and Washington. Timber harvest practices continue to be a threat although plants have been found in second growth and in semi-disturbed areas, e.g. along roads and clear cut edges. Collecting by herbalists is also a threat.
Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)
Comments: Of three populations monitored in southern Oregon from 1997-2002 two were fairly stable or increasing from one year to the next and one fluctuated and declined over the study period(Kaye and Cramer 2002).
Degree of Threat: Unknown
Comments: The foreseeable threat with the greatest impact is habitat degradation/loss. The primary threat is habitat degradation/loss due to timber management practices (WNHP 2003). Although the initial effect of clearcuts on tall bugbane is positive, the long-term results may be devastating due to the growth of closely-spaced trees which exclude tall bugbane from direct light (Kaye and Cramer 2003). Other threats include competition from invasive weedy species, residential development, collecting by herbalists and recreational use of some sites resulting in trampling of plants (WNHP 2003).
Actaea elata (syn. Cimicifuga elata) is a species of flowering plant in the buttercup family known by the common name tall bugbane. It is native to the Pacific Northwest of North America, where it can be found in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon.
This species is a rhizomatous perennial herb reaching a maximum height around 1.8 meters. It is hairy in texture, with some glandular hairs. The leaves are made up of many lobed, toothed leaflets which resemble maple leaves in shape. The inflorescence is a branching panicle up to 17 centimeters long. The panicle bears many flowers, each with five white or pink-tinged sepals, but no petals. The flower presents a spray of long white stamens. Blooming occurs from May or June to August. The fruit is a flattened follicle up to 1.2 centimeters long. The fruits are poisonous. The plant has an unpleasant scent.
This species grows in moist woods and forest habitat. It is mostly restricted to lower elevations and is more common on north-facing slopes. It is associated with the forest trees Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum), western redcedar (Thuja plicata), red alder (Alnus rubra), and vine maple (Acer circinatum), and other forest plants such as oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor), hazelnut (Corylus cornuta), sword fern (Polystichum munitum), and snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus). Alpine enchanter's nightshade (Circaea alpina), herb robert (Geranium robertianum), and wall lettuce (Lactuca muralis) are indicator species for the plant, often growing alongside it. This species can dominate the forest understory where it is common. The plant may be found in old-growth forests. It prefers the shade of dense forests. It can tolerate some breaks in the canopy but not large-scale clearing, such as clearcutting. Some penetrating sunlight is beneficial for the plant during its reproductive season. Animals associated with the species include the mountain beaver (Aplodontia rufa), particularly in Canada. Depending on location, pollinators of the plant include bumblebees, other types of bees, beetles, and syrphid flies.
This species has a limited distribution in its range. Most occurrences are in southern Oregon, where the populations can be large. There are fewer occurrences in Washington. In British Columbia, the plant is only known from the far southern regions of the province, near the Chilliwack River. It is considered an endangered species in British Columbia. There are ten known populations in British Columbia, making up less than 5% of the global population of the plant.
In 2004 a new variety of the species was named and defined, var. alpestris. This variety is endemic to southern Oregon and it differs from other members of its species by having scales along the lower stem, and often more pistils. It may also be found at higher elevations.
Threats to this species include processes that threaten its home ecosystems, such as the old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest. Fire suppression, logging, road maintenance, and other forest disturbance, collection from the wild, and damage to pollinator populations can harm occurrences of the plant.
- Actaea elata. Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS).
- Actaea elata. USDA PLANTS Profile.
- Actaea elata. Germplasm Resources Information Network.
- Actaea elata. NatureServe. 2012.
- Cimicifuga elata. Burke Museum of History and Culture. University of Washington. 2013.
- Cimicifuga elata. Flora of North America.
- Cimicifuga elata. Washington Natural Heritage Program. Washington Department of Natural Resources. 1998.
- Ellison, R. Plant Propagation Protocol for Actaea elata. University of Washington. April 18, 2012.
- Foster, S. and C. Hobbs. Peterson Field Guide to Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. New York, NY. 2002. pg. 41.
- Mayberry, R. J. and E. Elle. (2009). Effects of forest structure and microhabitat on the distribution and flowering of a rare understory plant, Actaea elata. Forest Ecology and Management 258(7) 1102-09.
- Helliwell, R. Tall Bugbane (Cimicifuga elata) Inventory in Douglas County, Oregon. Report to the Interagency Special Status/Sensitive Species Program. FY2010 Inventory & Conservation Planning Project. January, 2011.
- Klinkenberg, Brian, Ed. 2013. Actaea elata. E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Plants of British Columbia. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver.
- Tall Bugbane. Stewardship Centre for British Columbia.
- Lee, H. and C. Park. (2004). New taxa of Cimicifuga (Ranunculaceae) from Korea and the United States. Novon 14 180-84.
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Treated by Kartesz (1999) as Actaea elata; also known as Cimicifuga elata (e.g., in Kartesz (1994)).
EOL content is automatically assembled from many different content providers. As a result, from time to time you may find pages on EOL that are confusing.
To request an improvement, please leave a comment on the page. Thank you!