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Lyle E. Craker and Zoë Gardner

The passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act in 1994 made the use of supplements more acceptable in the U.S., increasing demand for botanicals to use in health care and maintenance. These botanicals, primarily medicinal and aromatic plants, currently represent about 25% of the dietary supplement market in the U.S. Although much of the market for botanicals traditionally has been met through collection of plants in the wild, enhanced cultivation of several species will be essential to bring standardized, quality plant materials into the marketplace.

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Zoë E. Gardner, Lorna Lueck and Lyle E. Craker*

Black cohosh [Actaea racemosa L.; syn. Cimicifuga racemosa (L.) Nutt], a plant native to the eastern United States, is believed to have been used as a medicinal by Native Americans for thousands of years. Currently, the root of the species is popular as a herbal remedy for the relief of menopausal symptoms. Recent estimates suggest that over 90% of the black cohosh sold is collected from the wild, resulting in an unsustainable harvest of ≈9 million individual plants per year. This study investigated the morphological variation of the plant at the population and species levels to assist plant breeders working on domestication and government agencies responsible for conservation of the species. Examination of leaves and flowers suggest morphological of the species is relatively low, but that several populations have unique morphological characteristics.