Indian Hemp

Indian HempThe Apocynaceae family commonly known as the Dogbane family consists of 215 genera and 2,100 species of herbs, shrubs, lianas, and trees found chiefly in tropical and subtropical regions.  Members of this family provide medically important cardiac glycosides (oubaine from Acokanthera and Strophanus species) and alkaloids (reserpine from Rawolfia seroebtuba).  This family also provides important sources of latex. Apocynum means “away dog!” from the Greek apo “away” and kuon “dog”.  Plants in this family were supposed to be poisonous to dogs. One member of the family, Oleander (Nerium oleander), is so poisonous that a single leaf is considered potentially lethal to a human and “loss of human life, sometimes involving large numbers of persons during military exercises, has repeatedly occurred when meat was roasted while skewered on oleander branches” (Kingsbury, JM, Poisonous Plants of the United States and Canada, Prentice-Hall, 1964). Eastern Native Americans made brownish thread of Indian Hemp and from these made ropes, bags, purses and sacks.  Southern Native Americans valued the plant as a tonic, emetic and antisyphilitic.  The root is the most powerful part of the plant.  In the 18th century, the dried rhizome and roots were sent to Europe as a remedy for heart disease.  The glycoside cymarin was identified and shown to have digitalis-like activity.  It was listed in the USP (United States Pharmacopeia)  as a cardiac medicine until 1952.

OtherCommonName:

Amy Root, Bitter-Root, Black Indian Hemp, Bowman’s Root

ScientificName:

Apocynum cannabinum

Community:

Edge

PlantStatus:

Native

LifeSpan:

Perennial

PlantHeight:

1-2 feet

FruitingTime:

September to October

Distribution:

New England to Florida ~ Statewide in New Jersey

FloweringTime:

early June to July

IdentifyingCharacteristics:

Erect well developed main stem ~ Clusters of greenish-white flowers, lobed ~ Leaves short, oblong to lance shaped, hairy beneath