Native. Perennial. Propagates by seeds. Time of bloom: July to October. Seed-time: August to November. Range: New Brunswick to Ontario and Nebraska, southward to Georgia, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. Habitat: Open woods, thickets along streams.
This plant was long suspected of causing in grazing animals a peculiar disease, called "Trembles" from the muscular tremors always noted as a symptom; in turn, if a person ate the milk or the butter or the meat from an animal so affected, a disorder known as "Milk Sickness" resulted, which was often fatal and is said to have caused the death of the mother of Abraham Lincoln. But in 1908, on a sudden outbreak of this disease in Illinois, the Department of Poisonous Plant Investigations at Washington1 was asked to look into the matter, and the power for injury of White Snakeroot was thoroughly tested on several species of animals; and finally, convinced of its harmlessness, the chemist experimented on himself, with no bad effects. So the plant stands acquitted. Still, some residents of affected localities say, "When Snakeroot is cleaned out, so are Trembles and Milk Sickness," which is certainly a good thing, and better plants take its place.
Stem very slender, much branched, smooth or nearly so, one to four feet tall. Leaves opposite, broadly ovate, pointed, large, thin, smooth, coarsely and sharply toothed, three-nerved, with long, slender petioles. Heads in large, compound, corymbose clusters, snowy white, each about a quarter-inch broad, the florets tubular, five-lobed; the rather long-pointed lobes of the corollas and elongated style branches give the flowers a soft, fringy appearance, somewhat like the garden Ageratum.
Means of suppression the same as for Joe-Pye Weed.
1 The Supposed Relationship of White Snakeroot to Milk Sickness or " Trembles."
Bull. No. 121, Bureau of Plant Industry, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture.