sealPurdue News

July 14, 2000

Web site, brochure highlight Indiana's poisonous plants

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service has re-released the Indiana Plants Poisonous to Livestock and Pets brochure. The publication, originally created about ten years ago, includes information relevant to pet owners, farmers and veterinarians.

According to Tom Jordan, professor of weed science and agriculture and natural resources program leader, the brochure has been re-released based on the popularity of the new poisonous plants Web site. The Web site provides a searchable database of poisonous plants information.

View the brochure online. The brochure also can be purchased from the Purdue University Media Distribution Center for $5.50. To order the brochure, call (888) EXT-INFO and ask for the publication WS-9.

"This brochure is a valuable tool to pet and livestock owners because of the amount of information it contains," Jordan said. "Each plant listed in the brochure and on the Web site includes a description of the animals it affects, the most dangerous parts of the plant, the types of symptoms it will induce, a physical description and picture of the plant, and also basic guidelines for treating the animal."

Among the animals most affected by poisonous plants are those grazing in pastures, with owners of horses, cows, and sheep reporting the highest number of sicknesses and deaths due to poisonous plants.

All of the plants in the brochure are found throughout the state of Indiana. However, some are more prevalent than others. Jordan said some of the most common toxic plants in Indiana are the white snakeroot, the hemlocks, and golden ragwort.

White snakeroot, a plant that has an extremely high toxicity rating, can be found almost anywhere. It has oval leaves with pointed tips and sharply toothed edges. It also has clusters of white flowers in late summer. The water hemlock is one of the most poisonous plants in the United States and livestock should not be allowed to graze anywhere near where it grows. The water hemlock and golden ragwort tend to be found in swampy areas and marshes, wet meadows and pastures, and along streambanks and low roadsides.

Some of the most toxic plants in Indiana are often found in and around the home. They include yews and plants in the nightshade family. The yew is a woody perennial with evergreen leaves. It also grows a "berry" that is grape-sized, juicy, and bright red, with a hole on one end that makes it cup-shaped. Sudden death is likely upon consumption of the yew and all animals are affected; however, dogs and cats rarely chew on the leaves of this plant. Most plants in the nightshade family are low-branching annuals with tiny white flowers and a berry fruit. "Fortunately this plant is only eaten when no other forage is available," Jordan said.

Perhaps even more difficult than recognizing poisonous plants is preventing animals from coming in contact with them. According to Jordan, there are simple ways to avoid plant toxicity in livestock and pets. "If you keep grazing animals, always maintain a well-kept pasture with plenty of good forage. Animals will not eat poisonous plants if they have plenty of good forage," he said.

Jordan said that during dry years weeds tend to grow more. "During these times, be aware of which weeds are growing in your pastures," he said. "Also make sure dangerous shrubs and hedges are planted a good distance from your animals' stalls."

Finally, do not throw foliage of poisonous plants into pastures where animals graze. "Even dead leaves from many poisonous plants can still contain toxins," he said.

Jordan said the severity of the animal's condition depends on the amount of the plant consumed. "Some of the plants may cause sudden death but most need to be consumed more than once or in large quantities to cause death or serious injury," Jordan said.

Source: Tom Jordan, (765) 494-8492

Writers: Samantha Cain and Nicole Lehe, (765) 494-8402.

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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