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White Snakeroot Identification

Updated on August 19, 2012
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Sean has been in the industry of gardening and landscaping since 2006. He is also a Certified Arborist that tends to focus on plant health.

Common & Botanical Name

Common Name
White Snakeroot

Latin Name
Ageratina altissima

Clustered flowers of the White Snakeroot
Clustered flowers of the White Snakeroot
Mature leaf
Mature leaf

Identifying White Snakeroot

Characteristics
White Snakeroot is a perennial that can grow up to 3' tall and branches occasionally. Consumption of White Snakeroot is poisonous to humans and animals due to concentrations of the toxin "temetrol." Consumption in cattle causes a disease commonly referred to as the "Trembles." Poisoning in humans is called "Milk Sickness." Cattle that consume the poisonous plant while producing milk are susceptible to toxic concentrations in the milk. The milk is then toxic to any animal or human that may consume it. Humans who consume tainted milk, or the plant directly, can develop symptoms of trembling, vomiting, and severe intestinal pain. Repeated exposure eventually leads to death.

Abraham Lincoln's mother succumbed to milk poisoning, as well as many early settlers in America.

Environment:
Hardwood timber areas, woodlands, pastures. Prefers shaded areas.

Leaves:
White snakeroot leaves grow opposite and up to 6 inches long. The leaves are serrated along the edges. Young leaves are lanceolate, while mature leaves are more broad.

Flowers:
The flowers grow in clusters and are small and white, slightly similar to the flowers of Queen Anne's Lace.

Seeds: The seeds are black and angular, measuring about 3mm long with a tuft of white hairs.

Roots: The root system is fibrous, branched and tough with hardy rhizomes.

Eradicating White Snakeroot

White Snakeroot is difficult to eradicate and chemical herbicides may not be ideal to use in certain situations, such applying a spray within a pasture. Pulling the plant and roots out of the ground and burning it is usually effective. Burning the plant(s) will prevent future germination of seeds. A glyphosate herbicide is usually effective if the location of the snakeroot allows safe usage. Directions on herbicide labels must always be followed correctly. Personal protection equipment must always be used also.

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