Saturday, September 19, 2009

White Snakeroot

White Snakeroot, Eupatorium rugosum, although a quite beautiful little plant, caused many problems until its deadly nature was finally discovered.

The quoted text below is from Two Common Weeds That Cause Death.

"Since the times of the earliest settlers in Indiana, considerable trouble has been experienced with a disease of sheep, cattle and horses called trembles or milk sickness. Many farmers believed that the poison was communicable to man thru the agency of milk, hence the disease in man was also called milk sickness. The losses were so heavy during pioneer days that one writer has estimated that more than half of the deaths that occurred in Dubois County, Indiana, during the year 1815 were due to milk sickness and be further states that the loss to stock was exceedingly heavy."

"The disease was attributed to poisonous gases, poisonous minerals in the soil, polluted drinking water, poisonous plants (particularly white snakeroot) and insects and later to bacteria. Comparatively recent investigations have demonstrated conclusively that the disease is caused by eating white snakeroot and tbe poison is transmitted to the suckling young by tbe milk. There is little doubt that milk sickness in man is due to drinking milk from animals poisoned by white snakeroot although experimental evidence of this character is difficult to secure. Not only is the green plant poisonous but it seems to be dangerous when fed dry in hay, as has been determined by feeding experiments performed under the direction of Dr. R. A. Craig of tbe Veterinary Department of the Purdue University Agricultural Experiment Station."

By the way... the other weed that causes death? Water Hemlock, aka Cowbane.

Hansen, Albert A. Two Common Weeds That Cause Death. Purdue University Agricultural Experiment Station. Circular 101. February 1923. Web. Google Book Search. 18 Sep 2009.

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