Caulophyllum thalictroides (Blue Cohosh)

Plant Info
Also known as: Pappoose-root, Squaw-root
Family:Berberidaceae (Barberry)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; moist, rich woods
Bloom season:April - May
Plant height:1 to 4 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 6-petals Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] 5 or more stalked flowers in 1 or more loose, branching clusters at the top of the stem. Individual flowers are about ½ inch across with 6 yellowish green petal-like sepals and 6 yellow stamens in a ring around the green center. The true petals are tiny (barely longer than the stamens), greenish, and sit between the sepals and stamens.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound Leaf type: lobed

[photo of leaves] Leaves are 3 or 4 times compound in groups of 3, each leaflet to 2½ inches long and wide, toothless and hairless, with 2 to 5 pointed lobes and a short stalk. The base of the leaflet is rounded and often asymmetrical, especially on the lateral leaflets. Non-flowering plants have a single compound leaf, flowering plants have 2.

[photo of stem] Leaf and flowering stems are in a whorl at the top of the stem. Stems are erect, multiple from the base, hairless and light green but may be tinged purple or blue and often have a waxy bloom.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a green, berry-like seed, about 1/3 inch across, that ripens to a deep blue. The fruit is poisonous.


Blue Cohosh leaves look similar to some other plants, in particular the Meadow Rues (Thalictrum species) but Blue Cohosh has much larger leaflets and the Meadow Rues lack the whorl of leaf and flower stalks at the top of the stem.

Please visit our sponsors

  • Minnesota Native Plant Society

Where to buy native seed and plants ↓

Map of native plant purveyors in the upper midwest

  • Minnesota Native Landscapes - Your Ecological Problem Solvers
  • Natural Shore Technologies - Using science to improve land and water
  • Itasca Ladyslipper Farm - Native orchids, container grown
  • Prairie Restorations - Bringing people together with the land
  • Shop for native seeds and plants at!

More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Wild River State Park, Chisago County. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Laurie - Deer River
on: 2013-08-31 21:33:59

I have a single blue cohosh plant growing amid sugar maple seedlings, red baneberry, and Canada mayflower in a vegetative area under mature sugar maples.

Posted by: Timothy J - Brooklyn Park, Hennepin County
on: 2017-05-08 16:25:47

Lots of these growing on the forest floor of the Izaak Walton League, Breckenridge Chapter property. This mainly oak and basswood forest is on the bluff of the Mississippi River.

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.


Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.