Overview

Comprehensive Description

Comments

This is one of many wonderful wildflowers that can be found in eastern deciduous woodlands during the spring. Doll's Eyes has attractive foliage and striking white berries, which become mature during the late summer or early fall. These berries resemble the eyes of old-fashioned china dolls, hence the common name. Another common name of this species is White Baneberry, which refers to the appearance of the berries and their toxic nature to humans. Another scientific name of this species is Actaea alba. The other species in this genus, Actaea rubra (Red Baneberry), is restricted to northern Illinois. This latter species has red berries (usually) and the pedicels of its flowers/berries are more slender than those of Doll's Eyes. Each berry of Red Baneberry contains more seeds (10 or more) than a berry of Doll's Eyes, and its seeds are smaller in size. However, there is an uncommon form of Red Baneberry that produces white berries.
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Description

This perennial wildflower is 1–2½' tall and either unbranched or sparingly branched. The alternate compound leaves are 2- or 3-pinnate and large in size; the leaflets are organized into groups of 3 (less often 5). The lower compound leaves have long petioles, while the petioles of the upper compound leaves are shorter. The leaflets are up to 4" long and 2¼" across; they are more or less ovate in shape, while their margins are shallowly cleft and strongly toothed. Usually, the terminal leaflets are a little larger than the lateral leaflets; the terminal leaflets have slender petiolules (leaflet stalks), while the lateral leaflets are either sessile or they have slender petiolules. The upper surface of each leaflet is dull green and hairless; the lower surface is also hairless. A raceme of white flowers on a long naked peduncle develops from the axil of the uppermost compound leaf. Initially, this raceme is about 1½–3" long and short-cylindrical in shape, but it becomes longer (3-6") when its flowers are replaced with berries. Each raceme has 10-28 flowers on widely spreading pedicels; these pedicels are short (about ½"), glabrous, and stout. Each flower spans about ¼" across, consisting of 4-10 white petals, a dozen or more white stamens, and a superior ovary with a short stout style. At the tip of this style is a large persistent stigma that is translucent white (although it later becomes dark). The sepals are early-deciduous and insignificant. Each petal is narrowly oblanceolate and often truncate at its tip. The blooming period occurs from late spring to very early summer; it lasts about 2 weeks. The flowers are replaced by berries that are ovoid-globoid and up to 1/3" in length. These berries become bright white when they are mature, while the pedicels and central axis of the raceme become bright red. At the outer end of each berry, there is a dark spot from the persistent stigma. Inside each berry, there are several seeds (fewer than 10). The root system is fibrous and rhizomatous.
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Distribution

National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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N.B., N.S., Ont., P.E.I., Que.; Ala., Ark., Conn., Del., Fla., Ga., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kans., Ky., La., Maine, Md., Mass., Mich., Minn., Miss., Mo., Nebr., N.H., N.J., N.Y., N.C., Ohio, Okla., Pa., R.I., S.C., Tenn., Vt., Va., W.Va., Wis.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Leaf blade: leaflets abaxially ± glabrous. Inflorescences at anthesis often longer than wide, short-cylindric. Flowers: petals truncate or cleft, often antherlike at apex; stigma sessile, 1.5-2.8 mm diam. during anthesis, as broad as or broader than ovary. Berries white, very rarely red, widely ellipsoid to nearly globose, 6.5-9 mm; pedicel bright red, stout, (0.7-)0.9-2.2(-3) mm diam., ± as thick as axis of raceme. Seeds 3.4-4.5 mm. 2 n = 16.
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Ecology

Habitat

Deciduous forests, less often with pines, junipers, or other conifers; 0-1200m.
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Associations

Faunal Associations

The flowers lack nectar and provide only pollen to visiting insects. These visitors are mainly Halictid bees; Robertson (1929) observed Augochlorella striata, Lasioglossum pectoralis, and Lasioglossum zephyrus. Various birds eat the white berries to a limited extent; this includes the Ruffed Grouse, Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, and American Robin (Eastman, 1992; pp. 12-13). These birds help to distribute the seeds to a new areas. The White-Footed Mouse also eats the berries. Because the foliage is toxic from a cardiac glycoside, it is not eaten by mammalian herbivores. Other parts of this plant are toxic as well, although birds are apparently immune to the toxic effects of the berries. The overall value of this wildflower to wildlife is low. Photographic Location
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Flower-Visiting Insects of Doll's Eyes in Illinois

Actaea pachypoda (Doll's Eyes)
(Short-tongued bees collect pollen or feed on pollen; observations are from Robertson)

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Augochlorella striata fp, Lasioglossum pectoralis cp fq, Lasioglossum zephyrus cp

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Flowering/Fruiting

Flowering spring-early summer.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Actaea pachypoda

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 4
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

Dappled sunlight to medium shade, moist to mesic conditions, and a fertile loamy soil with abundant organic matter is preferred. The compound leaves may become yellowish if they are exposed to excessive sunlight. Range & Habitat
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Wikipedia

Actaea pachypoda

Actaea pachypoda (doll's-eyes, white baneberry) is a species of flowering plant in the genus Actaea, of the family Ranunculaceae, native to eastern North America.

It is an herbaceous perennial plant growing to 50 cm or more tall (1½ to 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide). It has toothed, bipinnate compound leaves up to 40 cm long and 30 cm broad. The white flowers are produced in spring in a dense raceme about 10 cm long. Its most striking feature is its fruit, a 1 cm diameter white berry, whose size, shape, and black stigma scar give the species its other common name, "doll's eyes". The berries ripen over the summer, turning into a fruit that persists on the plant until frost.

White baneberry prefers clay to coarse loamy upland soils, and is found in hardwood and mixed forest stands. In cultivation it requires part to full shade, rich loamy soil, and regular water with good drainage to reproduce its native habitat.[1]

Both the berries and the entire plant are considered poisonous to humans. The berries contain cardiogenic toxins which can have an immediate sedative effect on human cardiac muscle tissue, and are the most poisonous part of the plant. Ingestion of the berries can lead to cardiac arrest and death. The berries are harmless to birds, the plant's primary seed dispersers.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Actaea pachypoda". Retrieved 7 July 2013. 

References and external links[edit]

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Notes

Comments

The "eye" formed by the persistent stigma in Actaea pachypoda is larger than that in A . rubra . 

 Red- and pink-berried plants have been called Actaea pachypoda forma rubrocarpa (Killip) Fernald or A . ludovicii Boivin. Some of these plants are intermediate in morphology between A . pachypoda and A . rubra ; they may be of hybrid origin. The sterility of fruits in many such plants lends support to this theory (R. S. Mitchell and J. K. Dean 1982).

Actaea pachypoda has been called A . alba (Linnaeus) Miller in some manuals (e.g., H. A. Gleason and A. Cronquist 1991; S. M. Walters et al. 1984+, vol. 3; Great Plains Flora Association 1986). Other authors (e.g., M. L. Fernald 1940; C. S. Keener 1977) have argued that the name A . alba is based on an illustration that is conspecific with the type of the European A . spicata Linnaeus and does not apply to plants here called A . pachypoda .

Native Americans prepared infusions from Actaea pachypoda to use medicinally as a gargle or throat aid (D. E. Moerman 1986).

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