Species Profile

Tall Bugbane

Scientific Name: Actaea elata
Other/Previous Names: Cimicifuga elata
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
Range: British Columbia
Last COSEWIC Assessment: May 2001
Last COSEWIC Designation: Endangered
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Tall Bugbane

Tall Bugbane Photo 1
Tall Bugbane Photo 2



The Tall Bugbane is a perennial, large-leafed, understorey plant that stands 1 to 2 m tall. It has a dark, tuberous, horizontal rhizome. The inflorescence is simple to compound with 50 to 900 small, white, closely-crowded flowers. Each follicle (fruit) contains approximately 10 red to purple-brown seeds.


Distribution and Population

The species occurs from southwestern Oregon and western Washington north to southwestern British Columbia, where it is only found sporadically in the Chilliwack River valley. It occurs west of the Coast-Cascade Mountains in BC and Washington, but within the mountain range in southwestern Oregon.In Canada, there are 7 extant, recently verified populations of Tall Bugbane, as well as 1 historic and 2 unverified populations, all of them in the Chilliwack River valley. Populations are relatively small, ranging from one to 63 plants.



The Tall Bugbane grows in shady, moist, mixed, mature western red cedar-hemlock and Douglas-fir, but also in predominately deciduous stands. The deciduous component is extremely important, providing the perfect balance of shade and light, and moisture retention.



There is no information available on the biology of Tall Bugbanes in BC, however, studies related to pollination ecology, and population genetic structure have been conducted in Washington and Oregon. Percentage germination is low, and seeds are heavy with no special dispersal mechanism. Plants emerge in spring and flower in mid-to-late June, July, or even into August. The species is pollinated by insects, mostly solitary bees, even though it seems poorly adapted to this type of pollination because its flowers lack nectar and showy corollas (petals) or markings to attract pollinators. However, individual flowers bloom in sequence, which is a characteristic facilitating cross-pollination.



The Tall Bugbane has both intrinsic biological limitations, and an uncertain future under current logging regimes in the Pacific Northwest. The plant occurs in small populations which are sporadically distributed over the landscape, is much less attractive to pollinators than other flowering plants, and lacks any specialized seed dispersal mechanism. Extremely small populations exist which are susceptible to low genetic diversity and imminent extirpation. In addition, the species, which is notably absent from young 15-30 year old managed stands, is threatened by forest fragmentation.



Federal Protection

The Tall Bugbane is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Tall Bugbane (Actaea elata) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry


Recovery Team

Tall Bugbane Recovery Team

  • Kym Welstead - Chair/Contact - Government of BC
    Phone: 604-582-5279  Fax: 604-930-7119  Send Email


Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Progress to Date A Recovery Team was initiated for this species in 2002. A draft Recovery Strategy has been produced, which recommends fieldwork to identify any additional populations, coordination of conservation planning with forest licensees to ensure maximal protection to known populations, and further research to increase our understanding of the pollination and dispersal ecology of the species. Summary of Research/Monitoring Activities In 2005, a monitoring and research project was initiated for Tall bugbane. One objective is to determine which life history stages of this long-lived plant are most vulnerable and should be the focus of conservation efforts. Researchers also aim to identify the bee species that pollinate Tall bugbane and determine whether the pollinators’ habitat requirements need to be addressed in recovery planning. Finally, an assessment of the genetic structure of Tall bugbane populations in Canada will determine the relationship between plants in different Canadian populations as well as Tall bugbane in the United States. This information will be used if population augmentation is undertaken, because a population should be augmented by seeds from a closely related population. Summary of Recovery Activities The recovery team aims to have all six known populations designated as wildlife habitat areas. Wildlife habitat areas will protect the land within 50 m of the population (the core area), and a 200 m buffer zone will have limited harvest. The total area of these six wildlife habitat areas will be 200 ha.


PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

4 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC assessment and status report on the tall bugbane Cimicifuga elata in Canada (2001)

    Cimicifuga elata (Tall Bugbane) is a perennial, large-leafed understorey plant that stands 1 to 2 m tall. Stems are branched above and leaves are bi-ternate with 9 to 17, cordate to ovate, often palmate leaflets, which are usually 3-lobed. This species has a dark, tuberous, horizontal rhizome. The inflorescence is a simple to compound raceme with 50 to 900 small, white, closely-crowded flowers. Individual flowers are radially symmetrical and apetalous, and sepals are white or pinkish, falling off at once. Fruits are follicles, 9 to 12 mm long, subsessile, appearing singly in the upper flowers, but in two's, and rarely, three's in the lower ones of the raceme. Follicles each contain approximately 10 red to purple-brown seeds.

COSEWIC Assessments

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Tall Bugbane (Actaea elata) in Canada (2017)

    The Minister of Environment and Climate Change is the competent minister under SARA for the Tall Bugbane and has prepared the federal component of this recovery strategy (Part 1), as per section 37 of SARA. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with the Province of British Columbia as per section 39(1) of SARA. SARA section 44 allows the Minister to adopt all or part of an existing plan for the species if it meets the requirements under SARA for content (sub-sections 41(1) or (2)). The Province of British Columbia provided the attached recovery plan for the Tall Bugbane (Part 2) as science advice to the jurisdictions responsible for managing the species in British Columbia. It was prepared in cooperation with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update March 31, 2017