Archive for June 24th, 2011

June 24, 2011

Event #230a: June 24, 2011


credit: ohio-nature.com/images/indian-hemp.jpg

I made a discovery about the latest flower sprigs that appeared on June 23rd. I had hoped to find some time to page through my flower books , and  I am going with “Indian Hemp”. It is a member of a family of plants called Dogbane, loosely related to Milkweed. And of course, once I made a positive ID, I then went on the internet to see if I could find Native American uses for the plant. And guess what they used it for? Fiber. Indian Hemp has a fibrous stem that can be cultivated and twisted into fiber: “The tough, fibrous bark of the stalks of Black Indian Hemp was employed by the Indians as a substitute for hemp in making twine, fishing nets, etc.”

The Indian Hemp plant growing in the "wild"; credit "wildwoodsurvival.com"

I even found a site that described how to do this, an article called “Making Cordage from Natural Fibers“. On a later search, I found an even better one. In fact, using this site, I could go out this fall and actually start making some cord, if I see the plant.  Bob said that the last time he ‘went there’, she was wearing something made of fiber this time, not from buck-skin as she has always been on previous visits. I asked what this fiber was like, “Burlap?”, I wondered. No, it was a finer weave, stated Bob. The question remains though, why leave me a sprig of this plant? The medicinal value of Indian Hemp (Apocynum cannabinum L.) seems to be secondary to its value as a fiber, in fact some sites say that it is poisonous. Uses I could find were to slow the heart rate, stimulate circulation and a diuretic. In large doses it can cause cardiac arrest (a risk to livestock that might chew the plant on the edge of farm-fields).

“It is used to treat congestive heart failure as it contains cardio- active glycosides This herb doesn’t have an edge over digitalis and hence is not advisable to be used by any human.”

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