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Apocynum cannabinum - L.
Common Name Indian Hemp
Family Apocynaceae
USDA hardiness 4-8
Known Hazards All parts of the plant are poisonous[1, 4, 19, 62]. It contains toxic cardioactive glycosides[222].
Habitats Gravelly or sandy soil, mainly near streams[4]. A common weed of cultivated land[60], usually found in shady or moist places[94].
Range North-eastern N. America.
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full shade Semi-shade Full sun

A perennial herbaceous plant with some edible, medicinal and other uses. A very good quality fibre obtained from the bark is used for making clothes, twine, bags, linen, and paper. Indian hemp is an unpleasantly bitter stimulant irritant herb that acts on the heart, respiratory and urinary systems, and also on the uterus. It has been used as a Antirheumatic; Cardiotonic; Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Emetic; Expectorant; Tonic; VD; Vermifuge; and for Warts. Similar to Cannabis (Cannabis sativa) as a fiber plant (see Hemp) but not as a source of a psychoactive drug. Common names include: Dogbane, Amy Root, Hemp Dogbane, Prairie Dogbane, Indian Hemp, Rheumatism Root, or Wild Cotton.

Apocynum cannabinum Indian Hemp

USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. Wetland flora: Field office illustrated guide to plant species. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Apocynum cannabinum Indian Hemp
Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of flower
Apocynum cannabinum is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 4. It is in flower from Jul to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Lepidoptera.Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.


Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; Meadow;
Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Seed.
Edible Uses: Gum.

Seed - raw or cooked[257]. It can be ground into a powder and used as a meal[94]. A latex obtained from the plant is used as a chewing gum[61, 94, 177]. After the latex has been squeezed from the plant it s allowed to stand overnight to harden into a white gum[257]. The latex was sometimes mixed with clean clay[257].
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antirheumatic;  Cardiotonic;  Diaphoretic;  Diuretic;  Emetic;  Expectorant;  Tonic;  VD;  
Vermifuge;  Warts.

Indian hemp is an unpleasantly bitter stimulant irritant herb that acts on the heart, respiratory and urinary systems, and also on the uterus[238]. It was much employed by various native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a wide variety of complaints including rheumatism, coughs, pox, whooping cough, asthma, internal parasites, diarrhoea and also to increase milk flow in lactating mothers[257]. The plant is still used in modern herbalism, but it should be used with great caution, and only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner if taken internally[[4, 222, 238]. See the notes above on toxicity[4, 222]. The root is cardiotonic, diaphoretic, diuretic, emetic and expectorant[4, 46, 61, 94, 238]. It is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use[238]. The fresh root is the most active part medicinally. It has been used in the treatment of syphilis and as a tonic[207]. A weak tea made from the dried root has been used for cardiac diseases[207, 222]. A tea made from the root has been used as a vermifuge[213]. The milky sap is a folk remedy for venereal warts[222].
Other Uses
Fibre;  Gum;  Latex.

A very good quality fibre obtained from the bark is used for making clothes, twine, bags, linen, paper etc[1, 46, 61, 92, 94, 95, 189, 257]. It is about 12 - 18mm long[189]. Very strong[99], it is used as a flax substitute[57], it does not shrink and it retains its strength in water[99]. The fibre is produced late in the season[85], it can be harvested after the leaves fall in autumn but is probably at its best as the seed pods are forming[169]. When making paper, the stems can be retted by leaving them in the ground until they are dry in the winter or they can be harvested in late summer, the leaves removed and the stems steamed to remove the fibre[189]. The stems are then cooked for two hours with lye and pounded with mallets[189]. The plant yields a latex which is a possible source of rubber[46, 61, 177]. The latex is also used as a chewing gum.
Cultivation details
Succeeds in sun or shade in most well-drained moist soils[169, 238]. Plants can be invasive[200]. The young shoots of this plant are extremely attractive to slugs[K].
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in late summer and overwintered outdoors. The seed requires a period of cold stratification if it is to germinate well[238]. Prick out the seedlings when large enough to handle and grow them on in a cold frame for their first winter, planting out in late spring of the following year[K]. Division in spring just before active growth begins[200]. Plants can also be divided in the autumn[238].
Other Names
Found In
Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

This plant can be weedy or invasive growing from spreading roots.
Conservation Status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.
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Botanical References
Links / References
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Readers comment
Elizabeth H.
Gino Leonardo DI MITRI (Italy) Fri Nov 25 2005
There is a dissertation written in 1804 by Giuseppe CAPECELATRO, archibishop of Taranto:"Memoria dell'apocino". Capecelatro was a late fellow and scholar of the italian linnaeism. Best regards, ginodimitri@tiscalinet.it

look for Capecelatro Giuseppe

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Subject : Apocynum cannabinum  

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