In my Fiber Fiber Everywhere post back in April, I noted that there are fiber plants all over the place where I live in Western Massachusetts. Recently I noticed a new one!
On June 26th, while walking along the dike in Hadley, I noticed a potential fiber plant that I had never noticed there before. I am pretty sure it’s Apocynum cannabinum, sometimes called common dogbane, hemp dogbane, or Indian hemp. The UMass Extension website has some helpful information for identification here. If I turn out to be wrong I will let you know. It is possible that some of the fibers I’ve seen on the trail by the river are from old dogbane stalks, and I just never realized it before.
Here’s a view of the whole plant in situ:
The stalks produce a sticky, milky latex-like sap:
The leaves are opposite and the stalks are pink:
I didn’t have a yard stick or measuring tape with me, but the tallest ones were about three feet tall. Here’s a leaf by itself:
I am pretty excited by this discovery. It is supposed to be an excellent fiber plant. As I understand it, the best time to collect the stalks is in the fall once the leaves have fallen off. I am a little worried that the edges of the dike will be mowed before the fall, so perhaps I won’t be harvesting from that spot. But now that I know what it looks like, I can look for it elsewhere.