Index- plants in this Family
Apocynaceae / Dogbane
Indian Hemp (Apocynum cannabinum)
Indian Hemp is also known as Dogbane.

Plant Type: This is a herbaceous plant, it is a perennial which can reach 152cm in height (60inches). Stems red and branched emerge from a spreading root.
Leaves: The leaf arrangement is opposite. Each leaf is entire and spreading or ascending. The lower leaves have stems while the upper leaves may not.
Flowers: The flowers have 5 Regular Parts and are up to 0.5cm long (0.2 inches). They are greenish white. Blooms first appear in late spring and continue into late summer. The flowers have no style and the stigma sits on two ovaries.
Fruit: Pairs (one from each ovary) of slender pods to 20cm (8") long contain seeds with tuffs of down much like milkweeds.
Habitat: Fields, borders and open woods
Range: Almost all of North America

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The genus name comes from a Greek word meaning "away with the dog". Our Dogbanes do not seem to have any effect on dogs. The Hemp and cannabinum (cannabis is the genus of true Hemp) names accurately reflect the plant's use as a fiber source.

Lore: The first European settlers in North America found the natives from many tribes produced a fiber from this plant that rivaled that of the hemp they were used to. Strong, long lasting ropes and fine fishing line could be made from it and nets from the fiber held up well in water. The American Indians produced many useful items from the fiber such as pouches and bags, quilts and clothing. Europeans observed native women making thread from the plant with no other equipment than their hands and thighs which they used to roll the fibers into threads. The fibers have been found in archeological sites thousands of years old.

Consider the following quotes:

Capt. John Smith in 1612 on the Virginia Indians
"We have seen some mantles made of Turky feathers, so prettily
wrought and woven with threads that nothing could be discerned
but the feathers, that was exceeding warme and very handsome."

and over 160 years later...

The German missionary David Zeisberger in Ohio, 1779
"The women make blankets of turkey-feathers which are bound together
with twine made of wild hemp. Of such many are to be found even
at the present day among the Indians, and these in winter are better
protection aganist the cold than the best European blanket."

(Both quotes from Erichsen- Brown)

Medical Uses: The dried and powered root used by Native Americans as a snuff to cause sneezing and thus relieve a head cold. Like Spreading Dogbane (A. Androsamifolium) the plant taken internally could produced anything from a mild diuretic and laxative effect to a purgative effect with profuse sweating depending on the dose and the potency of the plant. Even so some tribes used it as a tonic. The Chickasaw and Choctaw reportedly used to treat syphilis by chewing the fresh root and swallowing the juice. It contains cymarin and apocannoside, glycosides that have shown anti-tumor activity. Warning: Poisonous, possibly deadly, in sufficient doses!

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More Info:  
The Search below may provide more information about this species. Some of URLs may have been used as a source for this page not otherwise cited. Most of the information not cited comes from multiple sources that can be found in the Books page. The USDA plant links are provided by: USDA, NRCS 1999. The PLANTS database ( National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA. You can check species names at ITIS Advanced Search to see if they meet the current ITIS taxonomic criteria.

By: Newcomb, Lawrence and Illustrated by Morrison, Gordon. 1977, Little, Brown and Company, ISBN:0-316-60442-9

One of the best general guides to wildflowers of the North Eastern and North Central United States. Newcomb's key is an excellent, simple method for identifying plants. Newcomb has drawings for almost every plant mentioned that are excellent aids to identifying the species. Though only the more common plants are covered this is often the first book I pick up when trying to identify a wildflower.

Wildflo wers of Tennessee the Ohio Valley and the Southern Appalachians
By: Dennis Horn and Tavia Cathcart and Thomas E. Hemmerly and David Duhl. , ISBN:1551054280

This is perhaps the best of many field guides covering this region. Featuring 446 excellent color photographs (located with the text) and mentioning as similar to those illustrated are another 800 or so species for a total coverage of over 1,200 species. The start of each family section includes line drawings of some of the species showing important features. The text includes the usual description, bloom season, range, habitat and additionally includes information such as medical uses and lore and how the species was named. This is the official field guide of the Tennessee Native Plant Society.

Angiosperms / Flowering Plants
Dicots / Two Seed Leaves



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