Actea pachypoda Ell.

Doll's Eyes

Actea pachypoda plant

Family - Ranunculaceae

Stems - To +50cm tall, glabrous, from thick large rhizome, herbaceous, purplish at base.

Acteae pachypoda stem

Leaves - Alternate, twice ternately divided, glabrous, petiolate. Ultimate divisions serrate, with shallow lobes. Total leaf length(with petiole) +40cm long, +30cm broad.

Actea pachypoda leaf

Inflorescence - Axillary pedunculate raceme with +/-15 flowers, to 10cm long(tall). Peduncle to +15cm, glabrous. Pedicels thick, 1cm long, 1.5mm in diameter, thickened at apex, with antrorse pubescence. Small acuminate bract subtending each pedicel. Peduncle and pedicels enlarging and becoming red in fruit.

Actaea pachypoda inflorescenceInflorescence.

Flowers - Petaloid sepals 4-5, white, truncate to 3-notched at apex, 5mm long, 1.5mm broad. Stamens +20. Filaments to 6-7mm long, white, glabrous, slightly expanded(thickened) just below anthers. Anthers pale yellow, .6mm in diameter. Ovary superior, white, glabrous, 3mm long, 2mm broad, urceolate. Placentation parietal. Stigma capitate, 2-lobed.

Actaea pachypoda flowerFlower.

Actaea pachypoda flowerFlowers, lateral view.

Fruit - A white subglobose berry with +/-5 seeds. Berry with black dot at apex, to 1cm long, with vertical groove.

Actea pachypoda fruitsFruits.

Flowering - May - June.

Habitat - Ravines, rich thick woods, north facing slopes, base of bluffs.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Other info. - The species name means "thick foot" and one look at the big rhizome of the plant shows that it is aptly named. The rhizome used to be used, and probably still is, to treat pain and bronchial troubles. The plant is toxic however and some people get violent gastric distress from ingesting it. The plant can cause skin irritation also.
The plant grows in rich, deeply wooded areas and is a indicator of undisturbed habitat. The fruits of the plant are striking and add nice color to the deep forest floor in the early fall.

Photographs taken at the Jamerson C. McCormack Conservation Area, Holt County, MO., 5-3-00, and in the red hills of Alabama, 3-25-06 (DETenaglia); also at Faust County Park, St. Louis County, MO, 5-7-2014 (SRTurner).