Doll's Eyes

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Botanical Information:

Actaea pachypoda, also known as doll's-eyes or white baneberry, is a species of flowering plant in the genus Actaea, of the family Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family). Ranunculaceae contain protoanemonin (a toxin to humans and animals). There are a few traits that distinguish the Ranunculaceae species; the plants are usually herbaceous, the flowers have numerous stamens, and either many pistils that develop into single-seed fruit or a few separate pistils that develop into many-seeded fruits. It is a "herbaceous perennial plant".

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Domestication Information:

The Actaea pachypoda is native to Northern and Eastern North America. Actaea pachypoda prefers clay to abrasive upland soils, and is found in hardwood and mixed forest stands. In cultivation it requires part to full shade, rich soil, and regular water with good drainage to reproduce its native habitat. Doll's Eye can be found growing in moist soils of average to high quality with at least partial shade (Glick 2001). This is a woodland species. White baneberry is endangered in Florida and considered exploitably vulnerable in New York.

Current and Historical uses:

Native Americans made a medicinal tea from the roots of Actaea pachypoda to facilitate the pain after childbirth. The roots were known to have the active ingredient of beta-sitosterol glucoside, which reduces menstrual cramping. This preparation is sometimes called white cohosh since its similar to black cohosh (from the roots of the related plant Actaea racemosa), which is sold as an herbal supplement used to relieve vasomotor symptoms of menopause. Doll's Eye was also once thought to benefit the circulatory system. The leaves, roots, stems, flowers, and berries may cause gastrointestinal inflammation and skin blisters.

Additional Information:

The name comes from the fruit of the plant, which is a tiny white berry with a black dot that looks like an eye. The fruit, or the eye, is where most of the toxins are located, however the entire plant is toxic if ingested by humans. The berries look like some candies and taste sweet, which is why the plant is notorious for taking the lives of children. The toxin produced by the plant is carcinogenic and has an instant, sedative effect on human cardiac muscles and will cause a quick death if consumed.


"Actaea Pachypoda." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 24 Nov. 2012. Web. 29 Nov. 2012. <>.

"Practical Plants." Actaea Pachypoda -. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2012. <>.

"The Top 10 Deadliest Plants." Zidbits Learn Something New Everyday. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2012. < plants/>.