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Apocynum cannabinum (Indian hemp)
Reveal, James L.

Apocynum cannabinum

Apocynum cannabinum L.

Indian Hemp, Prairie Dogbane, Hemp Dogbane, Dogbane

Apocynaceae (Dogbane Family)

Synonym(s): Apocynum cannabinum var. angustifolium, Apocynum cannabinum var. glaberrimum, Apocynum cannabinum var. greeneanum, Apocynum cannabinum var. hypericifolium, Apocynum cannabinum var. nemorale, Apocynum cannabinum var. pubescens, Apocynum cannabinum var. suksdorfii, Apocynum hypericifolium, Apocynum pubescens, Apocynum sibiricum, Apocynum sibiricum var. cordigerum, Apocynum sibiricum var. farwellii, Apocynum sibiricum var. salignum, Apocynum suksdorfii, Apocynum suksdorfii var. angustifolium


USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

The strong, erect, purplish stem of Indian-hemp rises 3-4 ft., with branches ascending from the upper part. Long oval leaves often have a white coating or bloom as found on plums. Small cream-colored flowers are clustered at branch ends or on stalks from leaf axils. Tufted seeds form in spindle-shaped pods.

Women of some tribes rolled dogbane stem fibres on their legs to make fine thread, said to be finer and stronger than the best cotton thread. It was used for sewing and for making twine, nets, fabric and bowstrings. A number of varieties occur across the continent. This species can become a serious weed as it is aggressive and difficult to control.

Once thought to be a larval food for Monarch butterflies, research has shown that while adult female Monarchs will occasionally oviposit on this species, their offspring will not mature on it.


From the Image Gallery

24 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Root Type: Tap
Fruit Type: Follicle
Size Notes: Up to about 4 feet tall.
Leaf: Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep


USA: AL , AR , AZ , CA , CO , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , ID , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , MT , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NV , NY , OH , OK , OR , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , UT , VA , VT , WA , WI , WV , WY
Canada: NB , NL , NS , ON , QC
Native Distribution: Throughout the U.S.; scattered in Canada
Native Habitat: Roadsides; thickets; fields; lakeshores; waterways; disturbed areas

Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Various soils.
Conditions Comments: A number of varieties occur across the continent. This species can become a serious weed as it is aggressive and difficult to control. Use only in large areas.


Use Food: Chewing gum from hardened sap.
Use Medicinal: Amerindians used berries and root in weak teas for heart ailments, diuretic. Induces sweating and vomiting; laxative. and as wash to prevent hair loss. Used in headaches with sluggish bowels, liver disease, indigestion, rheumatism. Chickasaws and Choctaws chewed fresh root, swallowing only juice as a specific for syphilis.
Use Other: Widely used among aboriginal people for cordage. Very sturdy bast fibers.
Warning: POISONOUS PARTS: All parts, fresh or dry. Highly Toxic, May be Fatal if eaten. Symptom: Cardiac arrest. Toxic Principle: Resins and cardiac glycosides.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Nectar Source: yes
Poisonous: yes

Value to Beneficial Insects

Supports Conservation Biological Control

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

(Danaus plexippus)

Adult Food Source
Learn more at BAMONA

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Native host plants for Painted Lady Butterfly
June 01, 2006
I am looking for host plants for the Painted Lady Butterfly that I can plant in my school's (I am a teacher) native plant/butterfly garden. As part of the curriculum, each spring the 1st grade raises...
view the full question and answer

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA

Herbarium Specimen(s)

NPSOT 0607 Collected May 13, 1992 in Medina County by Harry Cliffe

1 specimen(s) available in the Digital Herbarium

Web Reference

Webref 30 - Calflora (2018) Calflora
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Apocynum cannabinum in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Apocynum cannabinum in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Apocynum cannabinum


Record Modified: 2022-11-21
Research By: TWC Staff

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