White Baneberry (Actaea pachypoda) is one of the rarest plants found in the B. W. Wells State Recreation Area. It appears to be present in only one deep, heavily wooded valley. This valley runs parallel to an old roadbed that ends eventually at an osprey nesting platform. The presence of White Baneberry in this valley is an indication of the high quality of the woodlands and the likely-hood that the original plant species are still there. Found in this same valley are unusual color forms of Painted Buckeye, Paw Paw trees, Three-lobed Violets, Southern Maidenhair Ferns, and many species of wildflowers. It is possible that this area was never farmed due to the steepness of the surrounding valley walls.
White Baneberry is often called Doll’s Eyes due to the large, strange-looking white berries that are produced by the plant after blooming. The berries resemble the eyes of old-fashioned China dolls, white with a large black spot in the middle. The name “baneberry” comes from the toxicity of the berries and the foliage – handling them can cause acute irritation and blisters. Birds, however, can eat the berries with no ill effects and serve to disseminate the seeds.
The White Baneberry at B. W. Wells is listed in Watch Category 6 – regionally rare in the Piedmont. After we recorded its exact location by GPS coordinates, State Parks placed it in its database of rare and important plants at Falls Lake.