Loading...
Sending a thanks for the Pitt Emergency Veterinarian Clinic here in Greenville. We are so fortunate to have such...

Mystery plant: Keep your dogs away from this one

011318mysteryplant

Besides this plant’s positive reputation for healing powers, it is probably better known historically as a source of excellent fibers

Loading…

John Nelson

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Down, down, dogs! — Shakespeare, Henry IV, part 2; II, 4.

 

I know that there are plenty of dog lovers (like me) out there reading this essay. We have two rescue dogs at our house, both locally born and “bred.” I don’t know what I’d do without them at this point, and of course we provide them with a yard to run around in, access to a dog park, comfy bedding, tasty dinners, the dog-salon and a complete medical/dental package. No wonder that we are careful with what is allowed, plant-wise, to come up in the backyard, as both of my girls, Rosie and Hannah, have good appetites, which are, shall we say, rather comprehensive. This is a plant we won’t allow them to fool around with.

In fact, its Greek name (the genus) means “Scram, dog!” For ages this plant has been known to have relatively serious toxic properties, and a good many critters have been sickened after consuming parts of it. The toxic part of the plant resides in its juice, which, while the plants are alive and growing, will be somewhat white, oozing from wounds from fresh tissue. We botanists call this juice “latex.”

The plants themselves are handsome. This native species is a member of the milkweed family, and it can be found on upland sites nearly throughout the United States. It’s a strong-stemmed herb, growing straight up without branching except at the top, getting up to 3 feet tall. The leaves are broad and somewhat egg-shaped, bright green. Flowers are small and white. Following blooming, fruits will be set. In this case, each flower will produce a pair of “twinned” fruits; “follicles,” actually, which open up along a single slit down its length. The ripe, dry fruits can be seen in the autumn and winter, releasing their many seeds. Each seed is equipped with a silky parachute allowing wind distribution, much like what we see with seeds of … milkweeds.

The latex produced in the stems and leaves, due its complicated chemical nature, is not only a bit toxic, but has a considerable history of medicinal use. The historic use of this plant in medicine, at least during the Revolutionary and Civil wars, is well documented. South Carolina’s own Francis Peyre Porcher, in his 1869 publication “Resources of the Southern Fields and Forests,” refers to the use of the plant for treating dropsy (edema), substituting for quinine, as a great emetic (yuck), diuretic, “and as an agent for removing ascarides [worms]” … (yuck again).

Besides this plant’s positive reputation for healing powers, it is probably better known historically as a source of excellent fibers, rivaling those obtained from true “hemp,” Cannabis sativa. Native Americans commonly fashioned various sorts of “cordage” from fibers obtained from the stems. Do you think anybody has ever tried using these fibers to make dog leashes?

(More on medicinal plant use and Southeastern wildflowers will be found in “A Guide to the Wildflowers of South Carolina”, by Richard Porcher [yes…a relative of the 1869 author!] and Doug Rayner, USC Press, 2001.) 

[Answer: “Dogbane,” Apocynum cannabinum]

John Nelson is the curator of the A.C. Moore Herbarium at the University of South Carolina’s Department of Biological Sciences in Columbia, S.C. As a public service, the Herbarium offers free plant identifications. For more information, call 803-777-8196, visit www.herbarium.org or email nelson@sc.edu.

Loading…

Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Look

November 11, 2018

Losing a child before his or her first birthday is an unthinkable tragedy for any parent — and unfortunately it occurs too often in North Carolina, where we far outpace the nation in infant mortality.

With over seven deaths per 1,000 live births vs. the national average of fewer than six per…

Anita Bachmann

November 11, 2018

WINTERVILLE — Approximately 300 people gathered in the South Central High School cafeteria recently to celebrate their time as students at Winterville High School. The school, which was built in 1935, has served as A.G. Cox Middle School since 1971.

“The first Saturday in November has…

1107-WHSReunion2.jpg

November 10, 2018

The year is old, the birds are flown.

And yet the world, in its distress,

Displays a certain loveliness —

 — John Updike, from “A Child’s Calendar”

Autumn has once again snuck up upon us, as it always does.

Autumn is known mostly as a time of cooling temperatures,…

1110318mysteryplant.JPG

November 07, 2018

Q Would you please help spread the word about our upcoming event that will celebrate the successes of people in Pitt County who are eating healthy, being physically active and managing their own diabetes.  JS, Pitt County.

A Jackie Sugg MS, RDN, LDN is a long time friend and colleague from the…

Kolasa, Kathy

November 07, 2018

Bateeni Mediterranean Grill & Cafe at 1868 W. Arlington Blvd. in Greenville is a healthy escape for those seeking fresh and delicious food that will keep your taste buds and body fulfilled. They offer an array of authentic Mediterranean cuisine using their centuries old traditions of combining…

Mixed Grill Close Up.jpg

November 05, 2018

Drivers needed

The Pitt County Council on Aging is in need of volunteers to help deliver Meals on Wheels in Ayden and Bethel Monday through Friday. Drivers will provide lunch for homebound older adults. Route delivery takes about an hour. Training is provided. Call 752-1717.

Bell ringers needed

The…

November 04, 2018

North Carolina’s long literary tradition lives on and was celebrated with presentation of the North Carolina Book Awards at the Greenville Convention Center last week. ECU’s Charles Ewen was among those honored.

The awards, held on Oct. 26, are presented annually by the North Carolina…

Charlie Ewen.jpg

November 04, 2018

Why would I ask you to read from a column I wrote almost 30 years ago?

When I read that column, tearfully, at a recent family reunion, I knew I wanted to share it with you, just in case you missed it back in 1987.

That year was one of triumph for my mother.

In 1933 she finished college and left her…

DGMartin.jpg

November 04, 2018

SNOW HILL — It takes a dedicated pit master to grill a 128-pound hog in the middle of a nor’easter. That’s exactly what 12 faithful and talented competitors did last week at the third annual BBQ for Paw fundraiser in Snow Hill.

Thanks to the perseverance and hard work of the cooks,…

1031-BBQ paws2.jpg

November 03, 2018

November's Native American Heritage Month is a look back at the ancestry, traditions and contributions of American Indians. But a new exhibit at the Greenville Museum of Art provides a current perspective of one North Carolina tribe.

“Postmodern Native: Contemporary Lumbee Art,” which…

110218golumbeeart-4.jpg
217 stories in Look. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 22
        Next Page»   Last Page»