White Snakeroot Frosts the Early Fall Forest Border

This foamy flower is everywhere in the forest border this time of year. I have been familiar with it for a long time, but just learned, via this post by Brooklyn Botanic Garden that it was the culprit which caused “milk fever”, an ailment I had vaguely heard of and rather thought was caused by poison hemlock or some such plant.

It seems that if cows consume the various parts of this plant, humans can become ill from drinking their milk.

I understand from the information in the post that for some time after a Shawnee medicine woman revealed the cause of milk fever to a country doctor, people scoffed at the idea. Does this sound just a bit familiar to our pandemic situation today, in 2020?

Anyway, the story goes on to say that these days, milk from many dairy herds is combined when the drink is packaged for sale. Thus, if one herd of cows partook of snake root, the toxin will be sufficiently diluted so as not to cause harm. Interesting. Much easier than eradicating this prolific weed from every pasture.

I’ve never considered taking a bite of this plant, or feeding it to a bovine friend. I simply feast my eyes upon its blossoms – the ones that decorate the field behind our house and the border of the pond down the road.