Poisonous Plants (with audio)

November 20, 2016

by Jennifer Bearden

There are over sixty plant species with the potential to poison livestock.  However, only a few species cause most of the problems.  Toxic plants can be both native and exotic and most are broadleaved plants.  Florida’s climate is ideal for dozens of species of poisonous plants.

Livestock generally only eat poisonous plants under extreme conditions such as:

  •   Starvation
  •   Deficient Rations
  •   Overgrazing and Drought
  •   Fed Inadvertently as Fodder
  •   Incidental and Curiosity
  •   Some Taste Good (Example: Red Maple)

Poisonous plants can most often be found in new pastures or other areas of recently disturbed soil.  Also, neglect and overgrazing are common conditions for poisonous plants to thrive.  Dry water holes, old burn piles or trash piles, fence rows, ditch/creek edges and nutrient rich areas (feeding sites and manure piles) are other common sites to find toxic weeds.

Common Poisonous plants in our area include:

  •  Bracken Fern
  •  Showy Crotalaria
  •  Lantana
  •  Nightshades (solanaceae) Includes:  Tomatoes, Irish Potatoes, Eggplant, Black Night- shade, Horsenettle, Jimsonweed
  •  Spotted Water Hemlock
  •  Red Maple
  •  Prunus species
  •  Daturas
  •  Cassias
  •  Oleander
  •  Caroline Jasmine
  •  Perilla Mint
  •  Rhodendrons:  Azaleas, Wild Honey Suckle, Mountain Laurel
  •  Pokeberry
  •  Tung Tree
Lantana affects skin and liver of livestock.

Lantana affects skin and liver of livestock.

So, what can you do about poisonous plants in your pastures?  Walk the pasture frequently and submit samples of any unfamiliar or suspicious plant.  Know your hay source as poisonings can result from feeding infested hay. Remember that any cultural practice that results in species diversity in the pasture increases the chances of plant poisoning.  Don’t allow your livestock to graze in the yard.  Many exotic landscape plants are toxic and unfamiliar to the animals.  Prevention is the key since there are few “antidotes” that can be administered.  In most cases, veterinarians can only provide supportive treatment to affected animals.

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