White SnakerootEupatorium rugosum
Asteraceae Family

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Also known as: Ageratina altissima, Eupatorium ageratoides, E. urticaefolium, deerweed, deerwort, deerwort-boneset, fall poison, hemp-agrimony, Indian sanicle, milk-sickness plant, richweed, snakeroot, squaw-weed, stevia, white sanicle, white top, and "the plant that killed the president's mother".

The White Snakeroot is part of the Asteraceae family, which consists of herbs, shrubs, or more uncommon trees. They are arguably the largest family of flowering plants. The family is distributed worldwide except for Antarctica but is especially diverse in the tropical and subtropical regions of North America, the Andes, eastern Brazil, southern Africa, the Mediterranean region, central Asia, and southwestern China. An interesting fact about the Asteracaea family is that a majority of its species are important sources of cooking oils, sweetening agents, and tea infusions.

White Snakeroot has distinctive leaves that are opposite, sharply-toothed, 3 nerved, and attached to long petioles. White snakeroot is a tall plant with rather showy clusters of small bright-white flowers so it is easy to spot in the shady areas, which it generally thrives in. Although the White Snakeroot prefers moist forested areas and rich soils, it will also survive in dry areas as well. The plant grows best in basic soils and reproduces by seeds and short rhizomes (horizontal underground stems). Leaves and stems of white snakeroot plants contain tremetol, which is extremely poisonous.


White snakeroot contains an extremely high level of the toxin tremetol, which is not known for killing humans directly, but indirectly. After blooming, the small fluffy white seeds are easily blown away with the wind and are easily accessible to animals. Ingesting leaves and stems of the plant produces a deadly condition known as "trembles" in animals, and humans can develop "milk sickness" by consuming milk from affected animals.Some symptoms are nausea, weakness, and possible death. This milk sickness was an epidemic that occurred in local areas of the eastern U.S. in the early nineteenth century resulting in many deaths.


The White Snakeroot is native to North America and has spread to Canada. The green parts on the map indicate the geographical distribution of the plant. It is extremely prominent in the east.

White snakeroot was used by North Americans to treat snake bites. It was also used to treat various illnesses.

Few people are aware of the fact that Abraham Lincoln's mother died from drinking milk from a cow that had eaten White Snakeroot. Nancy Lincoln lasted only a week after drinking the milk. She experienced stomach cramps, weakness, and vomiting. She passed away at the age of 34. This disease was common near the Lincoln's because cattle would wander into the wooded areas, where white snakeroot used to grow. Contracting this disease has now been reduced due to improved farming techniques.



Works Cited
"Milk Sickness." Abraham Lincoln Birthplace. National Park Service. 21 Oct. 2012. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.< >

"white snakeroot." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Academic Edition . Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 29 Nov. 2012. < >.
"White Snackroot." Ohio Perennial and Biennial Weed Guide. Ohio State University. 2012. Web. 29 Nov. 2012. < >

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