Napé oílekiyapi / Dogbane / Apocynum cannabinum

Waníyetu wóečhuŋ/ winter projects, latest installment:


My cousin and I spent Christmas (not our religion, but a day off from work) making some Dogbane cordage. It creates a strong string or rope, and is fun to make. Here, you can see all 3 stages, from the dry stalks to the broken-down fibers, to the final cordage.


The Lakota name for this plant, Napé Oílekiyapi, talks about fire in the hands. The name refers to the seeds, which go up in little flaming puffs and explode like tiny firecrackers if you light them with a lighter. This aspect, plus the calming nature of making cordage, makes the plant a good choice when teaching distractible kids about botany.

On a botanical note, while this plant does have seeds (hence the name), it mostly propagates through rhizome.

Also, the leaves are poisonous — let this plant dry out before you work with it.

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