Hemp Dogbane is a large perennial with a milky sap that exudes from the plant if damaged. This plant is native to this region, and can grow to be 3 – 5 1/2 feet tall. The stems are a sweet red color that pairs elegantly with the solid green of the foliage. It has lovely white flowers, which bloom in July and August.
Another common name for this plant is “Indian Hemp,” because native peoples obtained strong, silky fibers from the stems. These fibers were used as twine in basketry, mats, netting, rope, and other artifacts.
Hemp Dogbane can spread aggressively, especially in wet areas. This plant can, however, tolerate drought, but be aware that by the end of the summer the plants deteriorate naturally in a drier landscape.
This adaptive species is often found thriving along fence lines that hold moisture. Look for Hemp Dogbane at the 79th Street entrance on Riverside Drive, and elsewhere in garden beds and paths throughout the Park.