Red Baneberry is most noticeable in mid-summer, when its flowers have developed into bright red (poisonous) fruits. At this time of year, its delicate white flowers look very much like those of its close relative, White Baneberry (which eventually bears white poisonous fruit). The easiest way to differentiate the two species at this time of year is to notice the shape of the flower cluster. Red Baneberry’s cluster is more or less spherical, whereas White Baneberry’s is more cylindrical.
A Goldenrod Crab Spider, capable of changing color from yellow to white or vice versa, depending on the color of the flower it’s on, perches on Red Baneberry flowers waiting to pounce upon an unsuspecting pollinator.
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White baneberry (Actaea alba) is most conspicuous in late summer, when its white berries tipped with a black dot are evident. It is not hard to see why it is also called Doll’s Eyes – the berries are said to resemble the ceramic eyes of old-fashioned china dolls. The entire plant is poisonous – just a few berries can cause dizziness and nausea in humans. However, they are eaten by ruffed grouse, yellow-bellied sapsuckers and American robins. White-footed mice and southern red-backed voles also dine on them. The leaves and flowers of its relative, red baneberry (Actaea rubra), closely resemble white baneberry, but in the fall it’s easy to tell them apart by the color of their berries (see 7/10/11 blog post) , as reflected in their common names.