Dogbane…is that something like dog misery? Perhaps it is dog “blight”? No, blight is what happens with plants. Perchance it means dog “curse”? No, to all three questions. Dogbane is a native prairie plant. Its delicate white flowers are visible now. As Aldo Leopold would have said, “another prairie birthday”.
In Latin it is, Apocynum sibiricum or (Clasping Dogbane) because the leaves “clasp” the stem. They have no stalk to attach the leaf to the stem of the plant. Dogbane leaves and stems have a waxy touch. They are beautiful to the eye too. The larger Apocynum family of plants have a milky sap, and true to its plant family, Dogbane sap is milky white. Another family trait: all plants in this family are toxic. Its Latin first name Apocynum means “away from the dog”. Dogbane could make a dog sick, yet it is highly unlikely. Dogbane is not typical dog fare.
Centuries ago, native people knew how to use plants. Dogbane was no exception. They used dogbane stem fibers to make light rope. They also knew how to use dogbane as a heart tonic but do not try this at home!
Clasping Dogbane is a native perennial, and there are 3 other types found in North America beside this one. Its petite flowers attract many small pollinators. My favorite part regarding Clasping Dogbane besides its common name are the pollinators and insects that depend on dogbane for food. To state that dogbane is an important food source for many insects would be unadulterated truth.
Now, for my favorite favorite part: One insect that depends on dogbane is the dogbane beetle. Debatable, but clearly possible, the dogbane beetle (Chrysochus auratus) is one spectacular beetle. It is a dogbane parasite. The adult beetles eat the leaves, its larva eat the dogbane roots. Remember the dogbane is a toxic plant. But not to the dogbane beetle. We will devote an entire blog to this beautiful and dogbane deadly beetle in the next blog! I won’t even share a photo-yet. Be ready…