≡ Menu

Plant Profile: Spreading Dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium)

Also called fly-trap dogbane and bitterroot, this lanky herbaceous perennial is a member of the dogbane family, Apocynaceae, that also includes milkweed, bluestar, periwinkle, and oleander.  It is native to North America from Massachusetts and Saskatchewan, south to Florida and Arizona where it grows in prairies, meadows, open woods, woodland edges, thickets, and along roadsides. The plants grow up to 4′ tall from a rhizomatous root system and have widely branching stems  that are light green to red and contain milk sap when broken.  The spreading or drooping dark green leaves are .4 to 5 inches long and oval with pointed tips.  In autumn the foliage turns yellow, orange, or rose.  During the summer terminal cymes 1-4″ wide appear and consist of slightly nodding flowers that are bell-shaped and fragrant. Each flower is 1/4″ wide and has 5 recurved petals that are white striped with pink. The fruit is a follicle 1.6 to 6″ long and contains numerous seeds with tufts of  silky hair that facilitate wind dispersal.  Spreading dogbane is a good choice for a meadow garden, wildlife planting, and erosion control.   Plants are poisonous. The genus name Apocynum, cones from the Greed words apo meaning asunder and kyon meaning dog  referring to the belief that the plant was poisonous to dogs.  The specific epithet, androsaemifolium, comes from the Greek words aner, andros meaning man and haima meaning blood, and the Latin word folium meaning leaf, and refers to the sap of the leaves.

Type: Herbaceous perennial

Bloom: Terminal clusters of white and pink,  slightly nodding, bell-shaped  flowers during the summer

Size: 1.5-34 H x 4′ W

Light:Sun to part sun

Soil: Lean, medium moist to dry, well-drained

Hardiness: Zones 4-8

Care: Low maintenance

Pests and Diseases: None of significance

Propagation: Division, seed

Companion Plants: Periwinkle, weeping forsythia, liriope, Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’