July 6, 2020

Killer Beauty

Ageratina altissima - White snakeroot

Ageratina altissima – White snakeroot | Photo courtesy of Glen Mittelhauser/Maine Natural History Observatory

Ageratina altissima is a perennial herb native to eastern North America. Commonly called white snakeroot, this member of the Aster family blossoms in late summer to fall with big clusters of tiny, pure white blooms. The plant pictured was photographed in Baxter State Park in bloom in early August. White snakeroot can easily top 4 feet in height and is usually found in wooded areas, preferring shade to partial shade. The common name has its origins in the mistaken belief that the plant could be used to treat snake bites. Not only did it not do that, it turns out the plant is highly toxic, according to Go Botany, and can sicken cattle and the people who eat meat or drink milk from cows that have consumed the plant. It is believed that Abraham Lincoln’s mother died from this, according to the site.

Wild Wednesday is a collaboration of Garden Maine and Glen Mittelhauser of the nonprofit Maine Natural History Observatory, www.mainenaturalhistory.org.

Earlier in 2012, Glen began working to catalog the plants of Baxter State Park, which you can read about here and find out how to sponsor a plant of your own. Courtesy of a poll taken earlier this year, Garden Maine is sponsoring this lovely plant.