White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima)
I stand corrected. White snakeroot surpasses the Grape as the ultimate double edged sword of plants. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, it killed Abraham Lincoln’s mother and about half of the population of early settlers in the U.S. who died from drinking milk from cows who ate this toxic plant. I guess there’s plenty good reason to call this plant a weed. But since I don’t have cows or children, I consider it an asset. When I first noticed the seedling of this plant I thought it might be a coneflower or something of the sort, so I let it grow. By the end of the summer it became a thick, five foot wall, completely blocking my view of the neighbors driveway. The air above this wall shimmered with bees, hundreds of them, going for the tiny white flowers. This plant transfers its toxins to tiger moth caterpillars, who eat it and become not so delectable to predators. Now, when I find a seedling, I let it grow into a great wall of life.