Education Resources Center
   Cordage Discovery Box
   Cordage Materials ~ Dogbane
Learn More About Cordage

Let's Learn About

   Return To Plants Index

   Return To Animals Index


Common and Scientific Names

Dogbane is the common name of the plant
Apocynum cannabinum.
Other common names for
Apocynum cannabinum are amyroot,
rheumatism weed, wild cotton, and Indian hemp

Apocynum Cannabinum is
Dogbane's scientific genus and species name.

In Latin, Apocynum means
"Away dog!" and
cannabinum means "hemp like". 
Image: Karl Holte

What Does Dogbane Look Like?

Dogbane 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.


Tiny 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.

Dogbane 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.

Dogbane Cordage

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 cordage and
have the reddest stems.

Using a sharp knife or stone the outer thin red bark was
carefully removed 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 the arm.

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.

In 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
late fall and early winter.