The common name of this species derives from the erroneous belief among early settlers that the bitter rhizomes were beneficial in the treatment of snakebites. In fact, the foliage and rhizomes are highly toxic, causing fatalities from 'Milk Sickness' because the toxins can pass through the milk of dairy cattle to humans. White Snakeroot has been reassigned recently to the genus Ageratina
, although it is still often referred to as Eupatorium rugosum
. Normally, White Snakeroot is largely hairless, although some authorities describe a pubescent variety of this species. White Snakeroot resembles many of the white-flowered Eupatorium spp.
(Bonesets), but these different species can be distinguished from each other by the appearance of their leaves. Among the species in this group, White Snakeroot has the broadest leaves; its lower leaves are cordate or broadly ovate, and these leaves have long petioles. White Snakeroot usually occurs in and around shady woodlands, while many of these other species are found in prairies and sunny wetlands.