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Blue cohosh

Family: Berberidaceae

Scientific name: Caulophyllum thalictroides (L.) Michx.

Common name: Blue cohosh

Description: This perennial glabrous herb arises from rough rootstocks and may reach a height of more than 2 feet. The yellowish-green flowers appear in late April and May and have six sepals, petals, and stamens. Early in the spring a simple naked stem appears that terminates in a raceme or panicle. A little below the inflorescence the stem bears a triternately compound sessile leaf. An unusual feature of the plant is that the fast-growing seeds rupture the ovary and the integument of the seed turns blue.

Occurrence: This member of the barberry family is fairly common in the rich woodlands of the Eastern United States up to about 3,000 feet.

Toxicity: The alkaloid methylcytisine is found in the leaves and seeds. Glycosides also are present. Children have been poisoned after eating the attractive bright blue seeds.

Symptoms: Poisoning causes severe stomach pains.

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