Apocynum androsaemifolium

Common Dogbane

Apocynum androsaemifolium, Common Dogbane, Lower Pauness Lake, BWCAW, Photo © 1998 by Earl J.S. Rook
Common Dogbane
Lower Pauness Lake, BWCAW
Photo © 1998 by Earl J.S. Rook

Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods


  • Apocynum, the Latin for "dog bane", the name given the Eurasian species Aconitum lycoctonum, known today as Purple Wolfsbane; from the Greek apokunon (apokunon), also "dog bane", applied to Marsdenia erecta, a south-eastern European species of milkweed.
  • androsaemifolium, from the Greek, 'androsaimon (androsaimon), "man blood", refering to the blood red juice of Hypericum perforatum, and the Latin folius, "leaf"; hence "the dogbane with leaves resembling the plant which is named for its juices the color of human blood". The juice of the dogbane is milky white.
  • Common Dogbane, "Common" because it beats trying to translate the GrecoLatin; "dogbane" an ancient name.
  • Other common names include Spreading Dogbane, Milkweed, Bitter Root, Fly-Trap, Apocyn à Feuilles d'Androsème (Fr)


  • Kingdom Plantae, the Plants
    • Division Magnoliophyta, the Angiosperms (flowering plants)
      • Class Magnoliopsida, the Dicotyledons
      • Subclass Asteridae
        • Order Gentianales, the Gentians
          • Family Apocynaceae, the Dogbanes
            • Genus Apocynum, the Dogbanes
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 30156


  • A shrub-like, perennial herb, 1'-4' tall.
  • Leaves paired and ovate, toothless, dark green above, paler and downy beneath, 2"-3" long.
  • Stems ruddy and branching, and, in common with the other three members of the genus, yielding on incision a milky juice resembling India rubber when dry.
  • Flowers bell shaped, white, tinged with red and fragrant, dangling from curved stalks; five scales in the throat of the corolla secrete a sweet liquid, attractive to flies. These scales are very sensitive, and when touched bend inward, imprisoning the insects.
  • Fruit dry narrow pods, in pairs, 3"-8" long.
  • Seeds reddish, with long white hairs.




  • Dry, sunny places; open woods, thickets, roadsides.
  • Dry sandy or rocky woodlands with oak, pine, aspen, bracken fern, and sweet fern. Prospers after disturbance such as fire and logging.




  • Native Americans twisted the fibrous outer bark to make thread and bowstrings.


  • Root has been used for medicinal purposes. Excessive doses of the extracts cause sickness and death in humans. Contains apocynamarin, a cardiac glycoside, as well as other glycosides and resins.


  • Blooms mid-June through the end of July in the North Country.
  • Reproduces by seed and vegetatively by rhizomes


  • By seed, sown at 68ºF, germinates rapidly.
  • Division most successful method


  • Hardy to USDA Zone 3 (average minimum annual temperature -40ºF)
  • Good for the butterfly garden. Due to its rapid spreading, it is rarely planted in gardens.
  • Prefers full sun.
  • Availability limited.



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Last Updated on 26 February, 2004