Common and Scientific Names
is the common name of the plant
Other common names for
Apocynum cannabinum are
rheumatism weed, wild cotton, and Indian hemp.
Dogbane's scientific genus and species name.
Latin, Apocynum means
"Away dog!" and
cannabinum means "hemp like".
Image: Karl Holte
What Does Dogbane Look Like?
has thin reddish stems that grow in spindly clumps up to three feet
tall. When dogbane is cut, the stems ooze a thick, milky liquid.
The leaves of Apocynum cannabinum grow
opposite from one another, and sometime three or more leaves grow in from one place.
Dogbane leaves are shaped like
a spear-point, and have smooth edges. On the top the leaves are smooth
and waxy, underneath they have downy white hairs.
white, cup shaped flowers are in clusters at the top of stems. Dogbane
flowers in late spring through the summer. Many small insects, such
as bees and flies, pollinate the flowers.
seeds have white hairs and are
found in two, long thin pods that hang downwards.
Where is Dogbane Found?
Apocynum cannabinum habitat is found in moist
areas, near rivers or streams, or along ditches.
To make dogbane cordage the dry stems and stalks were
harvested in the
fall to early winter after the plant had died.
The old dead stalks from
the previous year's growth were
especially good for harvesting and making
have the reddest stems.
Using a sharp knife or stone the outer thin red bark was
by scraping. After cleaning the stalk
was split lengthwise into four equal sections. Then the
inner, pithy side of the spilt stalk was held
against the wrist,
as the other hand went along and bent it against
This cracked the pith and and loosened the fibers. The
dangling bits of pith were scraped or brushed from the fibers
with the fingernails and the fibers were separated by gentle
rubbing between the hands. If any moisture remained in the
stalks, the pith would not break away easily.
making cordage, dogbane fibers were rolled together to make a
thread stronger than cotton. Three strands of dogbane cordage
braided together made bowstrings
or were woven together to weave
nets for capturing rabbits in the
fall and early winter.