» Poisonous Plants » Western baneberry, dolls-eyes, snakeberry

Western baneberry, dolls-eyes, snakeberry

Family: Ranunculaceae

Scientific name: Actaea rubra (Ait.) Willd.

Common name: Western baneberry, dolls-eyes, snakeberry

Description:  Western baneberry  is a tall perennial herb in the buttercup family. In the shade of the open forest, this plant is 2 to 3 feet high. The compound leaves are divided into oval, toothed leaflets. The elongated flower cluster is 3 to 7 inches in length and consists of many small flowers, each with 4 to 10 small white petals. There are two color phases to the fruits–red and white, prompting some botanists to classify these as separate varieties.

Occurrence:  This species is native to the forests and mountains of the Western United States but occurs also in the Midwest and in the New England States.

Toxicity:  All parts of the baneberry are toxic, particularly the roots and berries. The toxic compound is attributed to an essential oil. The colorful red (or white) berries are attractive to children. Deaths have been reported among children in Europe who ate the berries of the European species of baneberry.

Symptoms:  Baneberry poisoning is characterized by dizziness, severe gastroenteritis, vomiting, headache, and circulatory failure.

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