Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium
University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point

Vascular Plants

Plants of Wisconsin

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by Wayne Pauly from Dane County Parks ACTION Adult Conservation Team Newsletter (All folklore stories)


Flytrap Plant or Spreading Dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium)

Indian Hemp Dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum

In Fall, native people peeled the fibrous coating from either ‘Indian hemp’or ‘spreading dogbane’, and then twisted a string stronger than dental floss.  They used it for bow strings, animal snares, and fish nets.  The two dogbanes look similar with red stems, milky juice, and clusters of small pinkish white flowers, however, on occasion one of the ‘dogbanes’ has dozens of dead flies hanging from the flowers--’flytrap plant’. 

Although I’d  read about flies being trapped by the flowers, I had to search for several years before seeing it for myself.  It’s an amazing sight, the flies seeking nectar get their “tongue” caught between the stamens and are hung by the tongue until dead.  There were dozens of dead flies in each flower cluster and several individual flowers had four or five dead flies hanging by their tongues.  One time, a trapped fly was still alive, buzzing about a flower trapped by its short tongue.  I used the tip of a knife to gently pry apart the stamens releasing the fly’s tongue.  It flew away with a sore “tongue” as reminder--if it sees a bunch of dead flies hanging from some flowers, don’t get so curious about what tasted so good.

Vascular Plants

Plants of Wisconsin

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