Week of October 11, 2016 - Weed Walk - White Snake Root

Monday, October 10, 2016 9:26 PM | Anonymous

Weed Walk with Susun ...

White Snake Root
(Eupatorium rugosum)


Seems like everywhere I go this plant is there. It isn’t very showy – unless it colonizes an entire bank and spills a blanket of white down the hillside – and it doesn’t have a scent. It isn’t edible and I don’t think anyone ever made medicine out of it. But it is an interesting plant nonetheless.

When I first met this plant, it was called Eupatorium urticafolia, a much better name if you ask me, for the leaves (folia) do indeed look like nettle leaves (urtica). But a prior cite changed the name to rugosum, meaning reddish, which the stalks certainly are.

White snake root has two claims to fame: First, the killing of Abraham Lincoln’s mother. And second, some very medicinal sisters. Boneset and Joe Pye weed. Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) is still used today for fevers and symptoms that come and go, malaria-like. The flowers of these perfoliatum and rugosum look much the same – rayless white asters – but their leaves are quite different. Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpurea) was used, so the story goes, by the medicine man Jopi to cure the fevers his people suffered after white contact. I frequently call it by its variant name: Queen of the Meadow. It is a tall, stately plant, with pinkish-purple flowers and purple stems (like rugosum).

Fortunately for us, the goats won’t eat white snake root. The Lincoln’s cow did, concentrated the poison in the plant into its milk and slowly killed Mrs. Lincoln. An interesting plant.

~ From the Recipe Box ~

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