|Apocynum cannabinum in flower|
|Natural range in North America|
Apocynum cannabinum (dogbane, amy root, hemp dogbane, prairie dogbane, Indian hemp, rheumatism root, or wild cotton) is a perennial herbaceous plant that grows throughout much of North America—in the southern half of Canada and throughout the United States. It is a poisonous plant: Apocynum means "poisonous to dogs". All parts of the plant are poisonous and can cause cardiac arrest if ingested. However, some Lepidoptera feed on this plant, such as two hummingbird moths. The specific epithet cannabinum and the common names hemp dogbane and Indian hemp refer to its similarity to Cannabis as a source of fibre.
Apocynum cannabinum grows up to 2 m (6 ft 7 in) tall. The stems are reddish and contain a milky latex capable of causing skin blisters. The leaves are opposite, simple broad lanceolate, 7–15 cm (2+3⁄4–6 in) long and 3–5 cm (1+1⁄4–2 in) broad, entire, and smooth on top with white hairs on the underside. It flowers from July to August, has large sepals, and a five-lobed white corolla. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by moths and butterflies.
Distribution and habitat
This species is native to North America. However, in gardens it can be unwanted, growing from spreading roots. When growing among corn, Apocynum cannabinum can reduce yields by up to 10% and when growing among soybeans, by up to 40%. It can be controlled through mechanical means, although it is difficult to control with herbicides.
The plant can be used for various purposes. The most used parts are the seeds, the root, and the bark.
The stalks of Apocynum cannabinum were used as a source of fiber by Native Americans to make bows, fire-bows, nets, tie down straps, hunting nets, fishing lines, bags, and clothing. It is called qéemu [qǽːmu] in Nez Perce and [taxʷɨ́s] in Sahaptin. The Concow tribe call the plant pö (Konkow language).
It is used in herbal medicine to treat fever, and dysentery. Although the toxins from the plant can cause nausea and catharsis,[dubious ] it has also been used for slowing the pulse, and it is also a sedative and mild hypnotic. It is an unpleasantly bitter stimulant irritant herb that acts on the heart, respiratory and urinary systems, and also on the uterus. Apocynum cannabinum was much employed by various Native American tribes who used it to treat a wide variety of complaints including rheumatism, coughs, pox, whooping cough, asthma, internal parasites, diarrhoea and also to increase milk flow in lactating mothers. The root has been used as a tonic, cardiotonic, diaphoretic, diuretic, emetic (induces vomitting) and expectorant. It is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use. The fresh root is the most active part medicinally. A weak tea made from the dried root has been used for cardiac diseases and also as a vermifuge (an agent that expels parasitic worms). The milky sap is a (presumably topically applied) folk remedy for venereal warts. The plant is still used in modern herbalism, though it should be used with great caution and only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner if taken internally.
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