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Baneberry was established around 1818 and was incorporated under a special charter in 1851. It was named after a cactus thought to have caused a local death. In 1878, the charter was enlarged to allow for a railroad and a hospital. In 1912, the official census listed a population of 375, an industrial center of 100, and a railroad with three main lines.Baneberry is the common name for several species of plants in the genus Actaea. This group in the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) has toxic berries, hence the name “bane” meaning something that causes death or a deadly poison. The plants resemble the closely-related black cohosh or black bugbane (Cimicifuga racemosa) but the bugbanes have dry fruits, not fleshy berries like baneberry, so some taxonomists split them into two genera while others include them all in Actaea. The genus is also closely related to Aconitum, another highly toxic plant genus which contains monkshood and wolfbane.
There are two baneberry species commonly found in understory wooded areas of the Midwest. Red baneberry (A. rubra) is more widely distributed, throughout most of North America in zones 3-7 except in the southeastern US, while white baneberry (A. pachypoda) is found primarily in the eastern and Midwest in zones 3-8. Both species are found in moist, nutrient rich sites on many soil types and in a variety of ecosystems including deciduous, coniferous, and mixed forests, and along stream banks, in swamps and in other moist locations.
These herbaceous perennials emerge from a rhizome in the spring, producing one to several branching stems. Each stem has either three leaves that branch near the top, or three compound leaves and one flower stalk from the main central stem. White baneberry grows up to 2-3 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide; red baneberry tends to be smaller in stature than white baneberry, typically only to 2 feet tall and one foot wide. The leaves of the two species are virtually identical. Each compound leaf has 2-3 deeply lobed and coarsely toothed leaflets and hairy veins on the underside. Sometimes leaves are tripinnate, with the 3 primary leaflets further subdivided into 3-5 (rarely 7) leaflets. The lower leaf surface is slightly paler in color than the upper surface. (Source:hort.extension.wisc.edu)