White snakeroot is native to eastern North America.
Plants: Up to 5' (1.5 m) high, growing
as a single plant or a clump with multiple stems. Stems are light green, sometimes tan, round, with
few or no hairs.
Leaves: Near the base of the plant, leaves are are heart-shaped to oval (cordate to
cordate-ovate). Leaves further up the stem are narrower and more lance-shaped
(lanceolate). The leaves are 2½-6" (6.3-15 cm) × 1-3" (2.5-7.6 cm), with sharp, coarse serrations. Leaf undersides have prominent
veins. Leaf stems are longer than most, from ½-2½" (1.3-6.3 cm) long.
Flowers: White snakeroot blooms in
rounded corymbs, each containing 10 to 25 white flowers about ⅛" (5 mm) around. Each flower is a
composite flower, composed of a central disc and surrounding petals. Since each
petal is technically a flower in its own right, you could say that white snakeroot contains flowers within
flowers within flowers. Or petals and disc flowers within flowerets within inflorescences. Or just
white fuzzy-looking flowers.
Fruits: Tiny black bristled 5-angled achenes equipped with
equally tiny parachutes.
Edibility: Poisonous Plants contain tremetol and
glycosides, which together cause staggers, a potentially fatal disease in cows. These plants are also toxic to people, and milk from cows exposed to white
snakeroot can also cause illness called “milk sickness” in people. In the 1800s, when drought sometimes forced
cows to forage in forests for food, this caused extensive deaths.