Indian Hemp

Ojibway: Zesabiins
Latin: Apocynum cannabinum L.


Common Names
  • Hemp Dogbane
  • Clasping-leaved Indian hemp.

The plant has a strong, erect, purplish stem, with branches ascending from the upper part. Long oval leaves often have a white coating or bloom as found on plums. Small cream-colored flowers are clustered at branch ends or on stalks from
leaf axils. Tufted seeds form in spindle-shaped pods.


Small, white to greenish-white, and produced in terminal clusters (cymes). The flower size is 1 cm (1/4 in.) wide. Many small insect pollinators, such as wasps and flies, pollinate the flowers; May to August.


Entire margins, ovate or elliptic, 5-12.5 cm (2-5 in.) long, (0.5-1.5 in.) 1-4 cm wide, and arranged oppositely along the stem. Leaves have short petioles (stems) and are sparingly pubescent or lacking hairs beneath. The lower leaves have stems while the upper leaves may not. The leaves turn yellow in the fall, and then drop off.


1-1.2 m (3-4 ft.) tall.


Roadsides, thickets, fields, lakeshores, waterways, and disturbed areas.


Throughout the United States; scattered in Canada.


This plant was used to make cordage and thread prior to the widespread use of cotton. The twine made from the plant was excellent for making fishing lines and nets because it kept its strength under water and did not shrink. It was also used in the manufacturing of many other items, including deer and rabbit nets, slings for hunting small game, nooses for snaring grouse and other game birds, hide stretchers, bowstrings, moccasins, clothing, straps, and woven bedding for baby cradles, wheels used in a type of dart game, carrying nets, and cat-tail mats. Medically, it was used to treat coughs.


This plant can be fatal to animals if eaten. Other plants in the genus have poisoned humans, and this species should not be ingested.