» Poisonous Plants » White snakeroot, snakeroot

White snakeroot, snakeroot

Family: Asteraceae

Scientific name: Eupatorium rugosum Houtt.

Common name: White snakeroot, snakeroot

Description: The large genus Eupatorium of the sunflower family includes a diverse group of species, with flowers ranging from white (Eupatorium rugosum) to blue, violet, and a purplish color. The leaves are mostly opposite (Eupatorium rugosum), but sometimes are alternate or whorled. The flower heads are large to small, but mostly they are in more or less flat-topped inflorescences. The individual flowers are tubular and perfect. The involucral bracts generally are in several lengths. The fruits are achenes and mostly have five angles. Each achene is fitted with a circle of fine bristles.

Occurrence: There are perhaps 500 species of herbs and shrubs in this genus, and most of them are in the American tropics. Eupatorium rugosum is found in the East and the Midwest.

Toxicity: Poisoning in humans by tremetol, the poisonous compound in white snakeroot, historically has been associated with drinking milk from cows that have eaten the plant. This so-called milk sickness caused considerable loss of life among the early settlers. Cases of milk sickness are now rare except when one family uses raw milk from one or two family cows that have grazed white snakeroot.

Symptoms: Tremetol produces weakness, followed by loss of appetite, stomach pains, vomiting, constipation, thirst, trembling, delirium, coma, and, and death

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