Thursday, October 1, 2009

So Whodunit?

Ageratina altissima , formerly known as Eupatorium rugosum (Taxonomists gotta make a living somehow) or white snakeroot, is a common native wildflower in bloom in our area now and is on many extension lists of native plants, good for attracting pollinators.

It is also the plant that killed Lincoln’s mother.
When stock animals feed on white snakeroot they show symptoms of trembles—muscular tremors, weakness, and constipation often leading to death. The poisonous principle is named tremetol, a fat-soluble, high molecular weight alcohol. Nursing females are shielded from some of the effects of tremetol because of the high rate at which it is excreted into their milk. This can be a death sentence for their nursing young however. For people consuming the milk of their animals, the resulting sickness was misinterpreted as a dangerous infectious epidemic of late autumn.

In 1818, nine-year old Abraham Lincoln, lost his mother to milk sickness.

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