Hunting Dogbane in Late Fall



Each year, once the annual plant stalks die, I go hunting for an important resource. I use a lot of dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum) for cordage making. The bast fibers in the inner bark of the stalk are strong, fine and a beautiful red-brown color. The plant is toxic while fresh so I wait till the stalks are completely dead and dry to harvest it.


Patch of dogbane growing near sunny roadside

Dogbane likes to grow in sunny, disturbed places such as roadsides and abandoned farm fields. This makes it hard to rely on since the disturbance is likely to happen again before I can go and harvest the few hundred stalks I want for a year's cordage making and workshop supply. Someone with rights to the property could come back and mow or plow all of the dogbane down!


I love the seasonality of collecting dogbane: I get it in the very late Fall or early Winter, when I am done working so busily, and I will have time to plan, make crafts and projects, and get ready for the Spring season of educational Gatherings, school classes and workshops. It is ready for me to collect when I am ready to go collect it!



Dogbane bundles carefully harvested without the roots

I cut the stalks carefully instead of pulling them. I want the roots to stay healthy and uninjured so that they will sprout new stalks in the Spring. If all goes well, I will come back next year and do it all again.

The Primitive Naturalist

Jeff Gottlieb

Whittier, North Carolina

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