Bee Balm or Snakeroot?

eibren(z6PA)December 31, 2010

In the plantings in front of my house, I made it a point to establish a little patch of Bee Balm so I could occasionally have some for tea.

At about the same time that the Bee Balm was planted, I began to notice what I thought to be a volunteer patch of wild asters, with tiny white flowers, growing under a tree nearby. They made a nice display in the fall, so I let them be.

After a few seasons, the volunteers drifted over into the flower area, and I began to realize that some of my "Bee Balm" no longer had a bee balm fragrance. Comparing the plants with those where my "wild asters" grew, I realized that some of those plants were trying to take over my Bee Balm spot, and, in their Spring phase of growth, looked quite similar, at least to the naked eye, to Bee Balm.

Investigating further, I found that my innocent looking "wild asters" were actually, in all probability, Snakeroot, which is known to be toxic to livestock, and responsible for toxicity in milk if dairy cows graze upon it.

Since both plants appear to enjoy the same habitats and can look quite similar to each other in the Spring, this might be something to watch out for.

I am unaware of any therapeutic uses for Snakeroot; possibly it could have potential for environmental vermin control, but I don't know what the risks of even that might be. I assumed that, initially, birds had dropped the seed under the tree, which would imply that they use the plant as a food source. I don't think as great a number of the plants would have grown in that spot simultaneously if carried in by air currents. Squirrels climb up and down that tree all the time and have not seemed bothered by it.

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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Since you are in PA, I would suggest picking up a copy of Newcomb's Wildflower Guide. If you are not well acquainted with the wild flowering plants of your area it will be invaluable to you.

By snakeroot I assume you mean white snakeroot Ageratina altissima or as I still know it Eupatorium rugosum. It looks very different than asters since asters have distinct daisy-like flowers. Not so with Ageratina altissima or any of the Eupatoriums. See link.


Here is a link that might be useful: Google images - White Snakeroot

    Bookmark   December 31, 2010 at 9:24PM
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Thank you, Fata, those px do look like it.

I have several wildflower guides but I don't think Newcomb's is among them. Will keep my eyes open for it.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2011 at 8:54PM
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