Apocynum cannabinum

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Apocynum cannabinum
photo of an Apocynum cannabinum plant
Apocynum cannabinum in flower

Secure  (NatureServe)[1]
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Gentianales
Family: Apocynaceae
Genus: Apocynum
A. cannabinum
Binomial name
Apocynum cannabinum
map of North America with most states and provinces shaded green
Natural range in North America[2]
    • Apocynum album Greene
    • Apocynum angustifolium Wooton
    • Apocynum arenarium Greene
    • Apocynum bebbianum Greene
    • Apocynum bolanderi Greene
    • Apocynum breweri Greene
    • Apocynum canadense Shecut
    • Apocynum cannabinum var. album (Greene) Bég. & Belosersky
    • Apocynum cannabinum var. angustifolium N.H.Holmgren
    • Apocynum cannabinum f. arenarium (Greene) B.Boivin
    • Apocynum cannabinum var. bolanderi (Greene) Bég. & Belosersky
    • Apocynum cannabinum subsp. cordigerum (Greene) Á.Löve & D.Löve
    • Apocynum cannabinum var. estellinum (Greene) Bég. & Belosersky
    • Apocynum cannabinum var. floribundum Bég. & Belosersky
    • Apocynum cannabinum var. glaberrimum A.DC.
    • Apocynum cannabinum var. greeneanum (Bég. & Belosersky) Woodson
    • Apocynum cannabinum var. hypericifolium (Aiton) A.Gray
    • Apocynum cannabinum var. incanum Bég. & Belosersky
    • Apocynum cannabinum var. isophyllum (Greene) Bég. & Belosersky
    • Apocynum cannabinum var. lanceolatum Durand & Hilg.
    • Apocynum cannabinum var. nemorale (G.S.Mill.) Fernald
    • Apocynum cannabinum var. oliganthum Bég. & Belosersky
    • Apocynum cannabinum var. palustre Bég. & Belosersky
    • Apocynum cannabinum f. pennsilvanicum Bég. & Belosersky
    • Apocynum cannabinum var. puberulum Bég. & Belosersky
    • Apocynum cannabinum f. pubescens (Mitch. ex R.Br.) Voss
    • Apocynum cannabinum var. pubescens (Mitch. ex R.Br.) A.DC.
    • Apocynum cannabinum var. suksdorfii (Greene) Bég. & Belosersky
    • Apocynum carolinii Nieuwl.
    • Apocynum cervinum Greene
    • Apocynum cinereum Nieuwl.
    • Apocynum cordigerum Greene
    • Apocynum cuspidatum Greene ex Bég. & Belosersky
    • Apocynum densiflorum Greene
    • Apocynum dictyotum Greene
    • Apocynum dimidiatum Raf.
    • Apocynum estellinum Greene
    • Apocynum farwellii Greene
    • Apocynum farwellii f. anomalum Farw.
    • Apocynum farwellii var. glaucum Farw.
    • Apocynum farwellii f. ternarium Farw.
    • Apocynum farwellii f. verticillare Farw.
    • Apocynum greeneanum Bég. & Belosersky
    • Apocynum hypericifolium Aiton
    • Apocynum hypericifolium var. angustifolium Bég. & Belosersky
    • Apocynum hypericifolium f. arenarium (Greene) F.C.Gates
    • Apocynum hypericifolium var. cordigerum (Greene) Bég. & Belosersky
    • Apocynum hypericifolium var. farwellii (Greene) Woodson
    • Apocynum hypericifolium var. intermedium Bég. & Belosersky
    • Apocynum hypericifolium var. myrianthum (Greene) Bég. & Belosersky
    • Apocynum hypericifolium var. nevadense (Goodd.) Bég. & Belosersky
    • Apocynum hypericifolium var. oblongum (Greene) Bég. & Belosersky
    • Apocynum hypericifolium var. salignum (Greene) Bég. & Belosersky
    • Apocynum hypericifolium var. typicum Bég. & Belosersky
    • Apocynum isophyllum Greene
    • Apocynum ithacense Greene
    • Apocynum laurinum Greene
    • Apocynum littorale Greene
    • Apocynum longifolium Greene
    • Apocynum macounii Greene ex Bég. & Belosersky
    • Apocynum missouriense Greene
    • Apocynum myrianthum Greene
    • Apocynum nemorale G.S.Mill.
    • Apocynum neogeum Bég. & Belosersky
    • Apocynum nevadense Goodd.
    • Apocynum oblongum Greene
    • Apocynum oliganthum Greene
    • Apocynum palustre Greene
    • Apocynum piscatorium Douglas ex A.DC.
    • Apocynum platyphyllum Greene
    • Apocynum procerum Greene
    • Apocynum pubescens Mitch. ex R.Br.
    • Apocynum purpureum Tausch
    • Apocynum salignum Greene
    • Apocynum sibiricum Jacq.
    • Apocynum sibiricum f. arenarium (Greene) Fernald
    • Apocynum sibiricum var. cordigerum (Greene) Fernald
    • Apocynum sibiricum var. farwellii (Greene) Woodson
    • Apocynum sibiricum var. salignum (Greene) Fernald
    • Apocynum subuligerum Greene
    • Apocynum suksdorfii Greene
    • Apocynum suksdorfii var. angustifolium (Bég. & Belosersky) Woodson
    • Apocynum suksdorfii var. typicum Greene
    • Apocynum thermale Greene
    • Apocynum tomentulosum Nieuwl.
    • Apocynum venetum A.DC.
    • Cynopaema hypericifolium (Aiton) Lunell
    • Forsteronia pavonii A.DC.

Apocynum cannabinum (dogbane, amy root, hemp dogbane, prairie dogbane, Indian hemp, rheumatism root, or wild cotton)[4] 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 poisonous to humans, dogs, cats, and horses. All parts of the plant are toxic and can cause cardiac arrest if ingested. Some Lepidoptera feed on this plant, such as the hummingbird moth.


Apocynum cannabinum grows up to 1 m (3 ft 3 in) tall. The stems are reddish and contain a milky latex. The leaves are opposite, simple broad lanceolate, 7–15 cm (2+34–6 in) long and 3–5 cm (1+14–2 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, with both male and female organs.[5]

Apocynum cannabinum fruits and seeds



Apocynum means "poisonous to dogs".[citation needed] The specific epithet cannabinum, and the common names hemp dogbane and Indian hemp refer to its similarity to Cannabis as a source of fiber.[6] It likely got its name from its resemblance to a European species of the same name.[which?][7] It is called qéemu [qǽːmu] in Nez Perce[8] and [taxʷɨ́s] in Sahaptin.[citation needed] The Maidu Concow people call the plant (Konkow language).[9]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Apocynum cannabinum grows in open wooded areas, ditches, and hillsides. It is found in gravelly or sandy soil, mainly near streams in shady or moist places.[5] It is native to much of North America—in the southern half of Canada and throughout the United States.[2]


Apocynum cannabinum flowers

The plant serves as a larval host for the snowberry clearwing (Hemaris diffinis),[10] which is a pollinator that resembles a small hummingbird.[11] It is also a host plant for the dogbane tiger moth (Cycnia tenera) and the zebra caterpillar (Melanchra picta). The larvae of Marmara apocynella[10] feed on the stems, making a "long whitish serpentine mine".[12]


It is poisonous to humans,[5] dogs, cats, and horses.[13] All parts of the plant are toxic, and the plant contains cardiac glycosides.[5] The stems contain a white sap capable of causing skin blisters.[14]



Much like flax and hemp, Apocynum cannabinum contains long fibers in the stems, known as bast fibers, which can be extracted and used to create textiles. The fibers are very fine and strong, with a silky texture, and easier to process than hemp.[6] The stalks of this plant have been used as a source of fiber by Native Americans[15] to make bows, fire-bows, nets, tie down straps, hunting nets, fishing lines, bags,[16] and clothing.[7] According to Craig Bates of the Yosemite Museum, five stalks of the plant are needed to make one foot of cordage. A large bag used for storing roots would take one to three months to complete.[17] The stems should be harvested in the fall, after the leaves have fallen and the stalks have turned a deep reddish-brown color. Since cutting the stalks promotes regrowth in the spring, as much as possible should be harvested. Unused stems are traditionally cleared away by burning, which causes the plant to grow back taller and straighter in spring.


The seeds have an edible use as a meal (raw or cooked) when ground into a powder.[5]

Chewing gum[edit]

The plant's latex sap can be squeezed from the plant and allowed to stand overnight to harden into a white gum which can be used (sometimes mixed with clean clay) as chewing gum.[5]


Apocynum cannabinum can be used to sequester lead in its biomass by taking it up from the soil through its roots. This process, called phytoremediation, could help clean sites contaminated with lead.[18]


Apocynum cannabinum showing sap from a broken leaf

It is used in herbal medicine to treat fever and to slow the pulse.[19] Apocynum cannabinum has been employed by various Native American tribes to treat a wide variety of complaints including rheumatism, coughs, pox, whooping cough, asthma, internal parasites, diarrhea, and to increase lactation.[5] The root has been used as a tonic, cardiotonic, diaphoretic, diuretic, an emetic (to induce vomiting), and an expectorant.[19][5] It is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use. The fresh root is medicinally the most active part. A weak tea made from the dried root has been used for cardiac diseases and as a vermifuge (an agent that expels parasitic worms). The milky sap is a folk remedy for genital warts.[5]


  1. ^ NatureServe (3 November 2022). "Apocynum cannabinum". explorer.natureserve.org. Arlington, Virginia. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  2. ^ a b USDA, NRCS (2014). "Apocynum cannabinum". The PLANTS Database (plants.usda.gov). Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
  3. ^ "Apocynum cannabinum L." Plants of the World Online. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 2022. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  4. ^ "Apocynum cannabinum". Integrated Taxonomic Information System.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Apocynum cannabinum". Plants for a Future. 2015. Archived from the original on 4 January 2015. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
  6. ^ a b Wenner, Nicholas (11 February 2020). "Native Plants for Textiles: 3 Bast Fibers to Know Beyond Hemp and Flax". fibershed.org.
  7. ^ a b Heiser, C.B. (2003). Weeds in My Garden: Observations on Some Misunderstood Plants. Portland, OR: Timber Press. p. 50. ISBN 0-88192-562-4.
  8. ^ Sammaripa, Stella; Arques, Sylvie; Palacios, Sherry; Peacock, Melissa (December 2021). "Qeemu revitalization: a Nez Perces case study (Nez Perce Nation, ID, USA)". AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts. 2021. New Orleans: AGU Fall Meeting 2021. Bibcode:2021AGUFMSY45D0805S. Archived from the original on 5 November 2022.
  9. ^ Chesnut, V.K. (1902). "Plants used by the Indians of Mendocino County, California". Contributions from the U.S. National Herbarium. 7 (3): 295–408 (p. 407). LCCN 08010527.
  10. ^ a b Robinson, Gaden S.; Ackery, Phillip R.; Kitching, Ian; Beccaloni, George W.; Hernández, Luis M. (2023). "Apocynum cannabinum search on HOSTS – The Hostplants and Caterpillars Database at the Natural History Museum". nhm.ac.uk. doi:10.5519/havt50xw. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  11. ^ "Hummingbird Moth (Hemaris spp.)". Archived from the original on 30 June 2017. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  12. ^ De Prins, J.; De Prins, W. (2022). "Marmara apocynella Braun, 1915". Global Taxonomic Database of Gracillariidae (Lepidoptera). Archived from the original on 5 November 2022. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  13. ^ "Dogbane Hemp". American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Retrieved 13 June 2021.
  14. ^ "Apocynum cannabinum". North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Archived from the original on 5 November 2022. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  15. ^ Coville, F.V. (1897). "Notes on the plants used by the Klamath Indians of Oregon" (PDF). Contributions from the U.S. National Herbarium. 5 (2): 87–108 (p. 103). Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 July 2018. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  16. ^ Kalm, Pehr (1772). Travels into North America: containing its natural history, and a circumstantial account of its plantations and agriculture in general, with the civil, ecclesiastical and commercial state of the country, the manners of the inhabitants, and several curious and important remarks on various subjects. Translated by Johann Reinhold Forster. London: T. Lowndes. p. 103. ISBN 9780665515002. OCLC 1083889360.
  17. ^ "Indian hemp" (PDF). plants.usda.gov. United States Department of Agriculture.
  18. ^ Lasat, M.M. (2000). "Phytoextraction of metals from contaminated soil: a review of plant/soil/metal interaction and assessment of pertinent agronomic issues" (PDF). Journal of Hazardous Substance Research. 2 (5): 11. Retrieved 31 October 2022.
  19. ^ a b Felter, Harvey (1922). The Eclectic Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics. Eclectic Medical Publications. ISBN 1888483032.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]