Eupatorium capillifolium (Lam.) Small - Dog Fennel
Family - Asteraceae
A portion of the inflorescence.
Close-up of an individual flowerhead.
Flowering - June - November.
Habitat - Flatwoods, marshes, disturbed sites, pastures, fallow fields.
Origin - Native to North America.
Other information - This weedy species can be found throughout most of Alabama and os certainly much more common than has been reported. The plant grows to +3m tall and is easy to identify becasue of its very thin leaves, pubescent stems, and odor. The plant emits a distinctive odor when crushed or bruised. The leaves are divided into many filiform segments. The large inflorescence turns brownish grey with age and is easily visible from many meters away. This is a common species in cow pastures that are left fallow.
The species epithet capillifolium derives from the Latin "capill" meaning "hair" and "foli(um)" meaning "a leaf" referring to the thin segments of the leaves.
The genus name Eupatorium was given in honor of Mithridates VI of Pontus (132BC - 63BC), also called Eupator Dionysius. Mithridates VI was the son of Mithridates V of Pontus (called Euergetes). Mithridates VI had many brothers, whom he killed to clear his path to the throne, and a sister, whom he married.
Mithridates VI is believed to have had a tremendous memory. It is said he spoke 25 different languages. It is also believed that Mithridates sought to strengthen himself against poisoning by taking less than lethal doses of poison on a regular basis. This practice came to be known as mithridatism. A universal antidote for a poison is sometimes referred to as a mithridate. Unfortunately for Mithridates, the practice of taking poisons actually worked against him in the end. During the 3rd Mithridatic War, Pompey the Great defeated Mithridates. Mithridates tried to poison himself instead of being captured but was unsuccessful becasue he had become tolerant of all the known poisons of his day. He instead had to stab himself with his own sword.
This strange ending of Mithridates' life is chronicled in a play called Mithridates, written in 1673 by Jean Racine. Mozart also wrote one of his first operas about the subject in 1770, Mitridate, re di Ponto.
Photographs taken off Lee Rd 10, Lee County, AL., 9-29-04 and 10-2-04.