Efficient, Season-Independent Seed Germination in Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa L.)


Seed germination in black cohosh was systematically examined in eighteen populations including 15 USDA accessions with an effective protocol for the consistent, season independent germination of this valuable alternative specialty crop. Two in vitro approaches were investigated for breaking the complex double dormancy of black cohosh seeds for yearround germination of plants for increased cultivation and laboratory studies. The first approach was a two-step alternating temperature stratification in which surface sterilized seeds were incubated in darkness at 25?C for two weeks followed by incubation at alternating temperatures of 20?C and 8?C for 12-hour periods with a 16-hour photoperiod for 12 months. The second was a three-step-approach that involved initial stratification of seeds in darkness at 25?C for two weeks, followed by incubation at 4?C in darkness for 3 -4 months and then cultivation at 25?C with a 16-hour photoperiod to generate seedlings. Although both approaches broke double dormancy for black cohosh seed germination, the three-step-stratification technique yielded higher percentage seed germination in less time when compared to the two-step scheme, including for seeds stored over two years. Additional factors of critical importance for efficient germination included the selection of healthy and viable seeds, as well as thorough but non-excessive surface sterilization to control bacterial and fungal contamination. The in vitro approach for black cohosh germination allowed year-round cultivation and culture of a number of different genotypic accessions to enable laboratory based studies on cell culture and transformation approaches to aid in deciphering gene-metabolite relationships in this important medicinal plant.

Share and Cite:

Kaur, B. , McCoy, J. and Eisenstein, E. (2013) Efficient, Season-Independent Seed Germination in Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa L.). American Journal of Plant Sciences, 4, 77-83. doi: 10.4236/ajps.2013.45A012.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] F. Borrelli and E. Ernst, “Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) for Menopausal Symptoms: A Systematic Review of Its Efficacy,” Pharmacological Research, Vol. 58, No. 1, 2008, pp. 8-14. doi:10.1016/j.phrs.2008.05.008
[2] N. R. Farnsworth and G. B. Mahady, “Research Highlights from the UIC/NIH Center for Botanical Dietary Supplements Research for Women’s Health: Black Cohosh from the Field to the Clinic,” Pharmaceutical Biology, Vol. 47, No. 8, 2009, pp. 755-760. doi:10.1080/13880200902988637
[3] C. Cavaliere, P. Rea, M. E. Lynch and M. Blumenthal, “Herbal Supplement Sales Experience Slight Increase in 2008,” HerbalGram, Vol. 82, 2009, pp. 58-61.
[4] P. Amato and D. M. Marcus, “Review of Alternative Therapies for Treatment of Menopausal Symptoms,” Climacteric, Vol. 6, No. 4, 2003, pp. 278-284.
[5] R. Teschke and A. Schwarzenboeck, “Suspected Hepatotoxicity by Cimicifugae racemosae Rhizoma (Black Cohosh, Root): Critical Analysis and Structured Causality Assessment,” Phytomedicine, Vol 16, No. 1, 2009, pp. 72-84. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2008.09.009
[6] S. L. Powell, T. Godecke, D. Nikolic, S. N. Chen, S. Ahn, B. Dietz, N. R. Farnsworth, R. B. van Breemen, D. C. Lankin, G. F. Pauli and J. L. Bolton, “In Vitro Serotonergic Activity of Black Cohosh and Identification of N- Methylserotonin as a Potential Active Constituent,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Vol. 56, No. 24, 2008, pp. 11718-11726. doi:10.1021/jf803298z
[7] M. L. Predny, P. De Angelis and J. L. Chamberlain, “Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa): An Annotated Bibliography,” General Technical Report SRS-97, 2006.
[8] J. L. Chamberlain, “Appalachian Opportunities: Medicinal and Aromatic Plants-Producing, Using and Marketing Herbs and Non-Timber Forest Products,” Proceedings of the Fourth Annual Symposium on Conserving the Appalachian Medicinal Plant Industry, Beckley, 2005, pp. 5- 16.
[9] R. Cech, “Growing At-Risk Medicinal Herbs: Horizon Herbs,” Williams, 2002.
[10] C. C. Baskin and J. M. Baskin, “Germination Ecophysiology of Herbaceous Plant Species in Tempreate Regions,” American Journal of Botany, Vol. 75, No. 2, 1988, pp. 286-305. doi:10.2307/2443896
[11] C. C. Baskin and J. M. Baskin, “Seeds: Ecology, Biogeography and Evolution of Dormancy and Germination,” Academic Press, San Diego, 2001.
[12] Y. Niimi, D.-S. Han and S. Abe, “Temperatures Affecting Embryo Development and Seed Germination of Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger) after Sowing,” Scientia Horticulturae, Vol. 107, No. 3, 2006, pp. 292-296. doi:10.1016/j.scienta.2005.08.007
[13] T. Nomizu, Y. Nimi and E. Watanabe, “Embryo Development and Seed Germination of Hepatica nobilis Schreber var. japonica as Affected by Temperature after Sowing,” Scientia Horticulturae, Vol. 99, No. 3-4, 2004, pp. 345-352. doi:10.1016/S0304-4238(03)00115-8
[14] T. J. Gianfagna and S. Rachmiel, “Changes in Gibberllins-Like Substances of Peach Seed during Stratification,” Physiologica Planarum, Vol. 66, No. 1, 1986, pp. 154- 158. doi:10.1111/j.1399-3054.1986.tb01249.x
[15] G. Ren, F. Chen, H. Lian, J. Zhao and X. Gao, “Changes in Hormone Content of Panax quinquefolium Seeds during Stratification,” The Journal of Horticultural Science and Biotechnology, Vol. 72, No. 6, 1997, pp. 901-906.
[16] N. Schmitz, S. R. Abrams and A. R. Kermode, “Changes in Abscisic Acid Content and Embryo Sensitivity to (+)- Abscisic Acid during the Termination of Dormancy of Yellow Cedar Seeds,” Journal of Experimental Botany, Vol. 51, 2000, pp. 1159-1162. doi:10.1093/jexbot/51.347.1159
[17] B. A. Hance and J. M. Bevington, “Changes in Protein Synthesis during Stratification and Dormancy Release in Embryos of Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum),” Physiologica Planarum, Vol. 86, No. 3, 1992, pp. 365-371. doi:10.1111/j.1399-3054.1992.tb01332.x
[18] T. L. Noland and J. B. Murphy, “Protein Synthesis and Aminopeptidase Activity in Dormant Sugar Pine Seeds during Stratification and Warm Incubation,” Journal of Plant Physiology, Vol. 124, No. 1-2, 1986, pp. 1-10. doi:10.1016/S0176-1617(86)80172-9
[19] J. M. Baskin and C. C. Baskin, “Epicotyl Dormancy in Seeds of Cimicifuga racemosa and Hepatica acutiloba,” Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, Vol. 112, No. 3, 1985, pp. 253-257. doi:10.2307/2996540
[20] J.-A. H. McCoy, “Seed and Rhizome Propagation of Actaea racemosa L. (Black Cohosh) and Analysis of Associated Triterpene Glycosides,” Doctoral Dissertation, Clemson University, 2004.
[21] M. J. Spiering, L. A. Urban, D. L. Nuss, V. Gopalan, A. Stoltzfus and E. Eisenstein, “Gene Identification in Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa L.): Expressed Sequence Tag Profiling and Genetic Screening Yields Candidate Genes for Production of Bioactive Secondary Metabolites,” Plant Cell Reports, Vol. 30, No. 4, 2011, pp. 613-629. doi:10.1007/s00299-010-0979-5
[22] T. Murashige and F. Skoog, “A Revised Medium for Rapid Growth and Bioassays with Tobacco Tissue Cultures,” Physiologia Plantarum, Vol. 15, No. 3, 1962, pp. 473-497.
[23] M. A. Albrecht and B. C. McCarthy, “Effects of Storage on Seed Dormancy and Survivorship in Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa L.) and Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.),” Seed Science and Technology, Vol. 35, No. 2, 2007, pp. 414-422. doi:10.1111/j.1399-3054.1962.tb08052.x
[24] M. Popp, R. Schenk and G. Abel, “Cultivation of Cimicifuga racemosa (L.) Nuttal and Quality of CR Extract BNO 1055,” Maturitas, Vol. 44, 2003, pp. S1-S7. doi:10.1016/S0378-5122(02)00343-2

Copyright © 2022 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.