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Blue Cohosh Flowering

4-28-17 blue cohosh IMG_5866

Blue Cohosh, one of our early spring wildflowers, has diminutive flowers that open before its leaves fully expand. Like Wild Ginger, Blue Cohosh flowers are the color of rotting meat, which may account for the fact that flies are its main insect visitors. Flies tend to feed at a single flower until satiated, which is not conducive to cross-pollination, and thus most fertilization in Blue Cohosh is the result of self-pollination.

Native Americans treated a wide range of afflictions with Blue Cohosh, including gallstones, fevers, toothaches and rheumatism. The most common use of its rhizomes, or underground stems, was as an aid to speed and ease childbirth. Even today it still serves this purpose — 64% of midwives surveyed reported using Blue Cohosh to treat women before or during childbirth. It has, however, had deleterious effects on some women and has not been evaluated by the FDA.

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5 responses

  1. Alice Pratt

    Another interesting plant. Reminds of a simpler kind of Passion flower, and the veined petals of a Ladyslipper.

    April 28, 2017 at 11:03 am

  2. Alan M Stoops

    I remember lots of blue cohosh during times I’ve been in Vermont. Seem to like that sweeter soil. It was common in Mount Holly and Plymouth, where I spent many summers as a camp counselor.
    I’m glad to see you have a skeptical attitude towards unevaluated medicinal claims. I wish more people did.
    A few miles from where I live near Keene is where Samuel Thompson, the “Father of American Herbalism” lived and practiced. In his time, herbal treatments probably did less harm (and some good) compared to contemporary medicinal practices, but nowadays there are a lot of untested claims about herbal treatments that warrant more caution.

    April 28, 2017 at 11:39 am

  3. Mabel Houghton

    I have what I was told was a black cohosh bush that has very long spikes as high as 6 or more feet covered with many small white flowers. Is this related to the blue cohosh you described.? Thank you so very much for your expert and generous contributions!

    April 28, 2017 at 11:48 am

  4. Helen downing

    Does Blue Cohosh also have an odor like rotting meat?

    April 28, 2017 at 11:53 pm

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