Nancy Lincoln lay ill in the earth-floored cabin in Kentucky, and no one knew what to do about it. The lean cow out in the woods pasture stood about listlessly and trembled in spasms of shivering that shook her bony frame. Nancy Lincoln died and doubtless the cow did, too, and in the dry September woods the while snakeroot's lusty greenery continued to grow in abundance.
Eupatorium rugosum Houtt.
August - September Dry woods.
Not until comparatively recently was it discovered that the scourge of pioneer days, the dreaded milk sickness, and "trembles" in cows, was caused by white snakeroot poison. The plant contains a violent toxic poison which affects cows which eat it. Human beings who drink the milk of these cows are infected with milk sickness which even now often results in death. Cows in woods pastures, where herbage by late summer is dry and sparse, are forced to eat the green leaves of snakeroot.
There are many Eupatoriums, some of which are difficult to identity others of which are simple. Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) is a stout, very hairy plant of the sunny uplands. The pairs of rough, hairy, toothed leaves clasp the stem or are entirely perfoliate (with the stern piercing the joining leaves). The flowers are fuzzy, grey-white, and are held in broad heads at the top of the plant. Late Boneset (Eupatorium serotinum) is smooth and grey-green, with pairs of narrow, deeply toothed, grey-green leaves. The flowers are grey-white in clus-ters at the tops of the stems. Blue mist-flower, often called ageratum, (Eupatorium coelestinum) grows in woods. It is one to two feet tall, smooth, with small, veiny green leaves, and heads of fuzzy lavender-blue or sky-blue flowers which are often used in gardens.