White Snakeroot

Fate in the woods with the White Snakeroot

I’m pretty sure that plant is White Snakeroot. Barbara commented on my blog,  I live in Wisconsin and it is blooming all over the woods right now.

I’d never seen the plant before because this is the first year that I cut a path through the grasses so I could get into the woods this time of year.  But I thought them beautiful when I took a picture of them a few days ago and posted it on my blog.

Since Barbara told me what the plant is I have learned some more about White Snakeroot.

It causes what pioneers called Milk sickness.  When cows eat the plant it poisons their milk.  In the 1800s many settlers died from it including Abraham Lincoln’s mother.  It also kills calves when they drink their mother’s milk.

According to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden’s Blog, it was Anna Pierce Hobbs Bixby, a doctor from Illinois, who learned that the plant was responsible for the poisoned milk from a Shawnee medicine woman.  And although she was able to teach many people to remove the plant from their fields so they cows couldn’t eat it, because she was a woman she wasn’t taken seriously by the medical community.

Eventually, they figured it out.

Native Americans also used the roots of the plant for medicinal purposes, and it’s believed it was used to cure snakebites.

And, not least of all, the flowers and leaves are food for many insects including the Leaf Miner, bees, and butterflies.

9 thoughts on “White Snakeroot

  1. And, it makes a pretty picture paired with a black and white border collie. This looks like the front of a puzzle box, or the cover of an outdoorsy magazine. Beautiful!

  2. Haven’t seen any here in Vermont, but will go looking. Lots of white wood asters blooming their heads off. Didn’t register it as “missing” until I saw your photo.

  3. so I go look up white snakeroot and see that the Latin name has been changed. Am I out of the loop… they say it has “undergone taxonomic revision by botanists”. Ack!

  4. Maria your photographs get more beautiful every day. I just love the clarity, color and composition. You are an artist in so many, many ways.
    If that plant were in my garden, I’d pull it out faster than a jack rabbit runs. I wouldn’t trust my dogs around it. My garden is in such bad shape that I am digging up toxic mushrooms, which I’ve always called toadstools, almost every day. When I first got my Labradoodle my son found him in the backyard with something we thought was a mushroom.
    Six thousand dollars, one over night at the Vet ICU and he was fine. They didn’t know what the thing was and he never threw it up so I am ever vigilant. I don’t ever want to go through that again.
    I’ve always had Shelties so this is a new breed for me. He likes to dig in the garden and eat twigs and rocks so I feel like I am always on patrol. Your photos make my day. Thank you.

    1. So many of the plants thats that grow at on the farm and in the woods are both poisonious and medicinal depending on how and which parts are ingested. I’ve found it interesting to learn a little about them. The animals already seem to know.

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