Forage Friday #93 Dogbane or Indian Hemp

Hello Friends! Tonight’s Feature Image was taken specifically for Forage Friday. All photos found on my website are my original work and are available for purchase by clicking the thumbnail and reaching out to me on the contact page.

Warning ⚠️ ALL OF MY REFERENCES LIST THIS PLANT AS TOXIC.

Please remember that Forage Friday is presented as trivia and is not to be mistaken for medical advice.

Dogbane ( Also known as Indian Hemp) is one of the first utilitarian plants I learned about when I started my journey into survivalism more than 30 years ago. Up until that point it was only food for the butterflies. But to to the Native Americans it was an important fiber plant. Rather than a long complex description of the extraction method here’s a video from of a gentleman who can show how the fiber is harvested.

The featured image is the seed pod which open this time of year and a few very fine fibers can be harvested from the pods but it’s really the stem that is used. It was these fibers that were used to tie up just about anything. We often think about native people using sinew and rawhide for cordage and for some things that was the best option. But Dogbane fibers were used for things like fishing nets and light lashings.

The fibers of Dogbane were able to hold up to the water where sinew gets kinda messy and will stick to itself if left in the water for too long. It’s the widespread use of this fiber that gives the plant the name Indian Hemp. I’m often told by cannabis actives about how the native population used hemp for food and medicine and rope. While I’m sure that they adopted the use in some ways cannabis wasn’t introduced to North America until after the white man arrived. It’s actually a native of Asia. But Dogbane filled the textile and cordage roll quite well in the pre-Columbian age.

As I stated in the disclaimer every single reference I have ever seen lists Dogbane as toxic and as the name suggests it is highly toxic to our furry family. The toxins can cause cardiac arrest in dogs which means that any product made from Dogbane should be kept well away from your best friend.

In spite of the dangers Dogbane is also listed as an edible. The sources say that the seeds can be ground into a flour and used cooked or raw. There’s not much more than that. Niw the reason for this is because the toxic chemicals are stored in the leaves and stem. It’s possible that small amounts are also found in the seeds and in low enough concentrations that humans can deal with it. But it couldn’t have ever been a main food source or there would be a richer history of it.

One thing that should be considered is the plant’s ability to clean up lead out of the soil. Apococynum cannabinum is considered a hyperaccumulator of lead. ( Also adding to the potential toxicity of the plant.) I suspect that it might also be able to collect and retain other heavy metals as well but that’s just conjecture.

There also seems to be a wide range of medicinal uses. The toxins do affect the heart rate and in the past was used to treat certain heart conditions. I suspect it’s done in the same way foxglove would be used but again. It’s a toxic plant and such a high risk use requires an expert with the equipment and training to monitor the effectiveness and weigh that against the risks. The list of uses is extensive and even includes wart removal, expelling parasites and increasing the flow of milk in young mothers. However, with the risk of cardiac arrest I think it’s best to look for one of the many other options. I suppose that if I were stranded on an island with no hope of rescue and Dogbane was the only medicinal plant available then I wouldn’t have much to lose but otherwise leave it for the experts.

The last thing I’ll cover is that it is an attractor of pollinators. Specifically the Snowberry Clearwing moth that I’m so fond of.

A Snowberry Clearwing Moth visiting ironweed.

Image Titled “September Visitor 90720” and is available for purchase by clicking the thumbnail and reaching out to me on the contact page.

But hummingbird moths aren’t the only insects that frequent Dogbane. I’ve seen every type of bee and Wasp also visiting the blooms.

That’s it for tonight friends. Good night and be blessed throughout your days.

Announcement:

I am adding additional social media to my network. Eventually, I’ll be leaving Facebook behind for a multitude of reasons. Even though the Lloyd’s Lens Photography page is strictly non-political I have been restricted from interacting with followers with no explanation for why. But it’s not just that. For years now Facebook has throttled content providers in general. They encourage us to grow our audience and then want to sell us back the access to them. In addition, they collect and sell the data from our interaction. So Facebook has become an entanglement of thorns. In response I have created the Lloyd’s Lens Photography Discussion Group on MeWe. We can still interact directly on the blog but starting today I’ll be looking for more platforms that respect the privacy of my followers and don’t limit who gets to see the post.

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