Poisonous Plants of the Southern United States

lantana.jpg (49249 bytes)lantana
Lantana camara

Erect or spreading shrub, .5 to 1. 2 m tall, with recurved prickles on the angles of the square stem. Leaves opposite or whorled, deciduous, ovate to lanceolate, 2 to 7 cm long, margins toothed, aromatic when crushed. Flowers initially cream, yellow or pink changing to orange or scarlet thus resulting in a multi-colored, short, head-like spike. Fruit greenish-blue or black, one seeded. Found in sandy coastal plain soils Florida to Texas; roadsides, waste places, yards and gardens; persisting after cultivation and escaping.

TOXICITY

This ornamental shrub contains lantanin, a triterpenoid, and other compounds irritating to the mucosa of the gastrointestinal tract. All parts of the plant are quite toxic and poisoning may occur year-round, but is most common in summer and fall. Many poisoning cases occur when clippings are thrown into the pasture.

Sheep, cattle, horses, and humans are sensitive to the effects of the plant. Children have been poisoned by eating the berries.

SYMPTOMS

Cattle are most often affected. There are two forms of toxicity: acute and chronic. The acute form usually occurs within 24 hours after eating the plants with the animal exhibiting gastroenteritis with bloody, watery feces. Severe weakness and paralysis of the limbs are followed by death in three to four days. The chronic form is characterized by jaundiced mucous membranes, photosensitization, ulcerations of the mucous membranes of the nose and oral cavity. The skin may peel, leaving raw areas that are vulnerable to blowfly strike and bacterial infection. Severe keratitis may result in temporary or permanent blindness.

TREATMENT

Removal of animals from direct sunlight, the use of antibiotic injections and topical applications of protective antibiotic creams are suggested.

 

oleander.jpg (57849 bytes)oleander
Nerium oleander

Ornamental shrub or small, densely branched tree, 1 to 10 m tall. Leaves opposite or whorled, evergreen, leathery, narrowly elliptic to linear elliptic, 6 to 15 cm long, 1 to 3 cm wide, margins entire. Flowers showy, white, pink, red or yellow, 3.5 to 4 cm wide; in large terminal clusters. Found on coastal plain Florida to Louisiana, particularly abundant on sandy soils near the coast; widely cultivated and escaping; roadsides, edges of woods, lawns and gardens.

TOXICITY

This extremely toxic plant can poison livestock and humans at any time of the year. The toxic principles are two glycosides, oleandroside and nerioside, and can be isolated from all parts of the plant.

SYMPTOMS

Severe gastroenteritis, diarrhea, abdominal pain, sweating and weakness are the usual symptoms. These signs appear within a few hours after eating the leaves. Cardiac irregularities are common, often characterized by increased heart rate. However, a slower heart rate is often detected in the later stages.

TREATMENT

Non-specific. Symptomatic treatment is suggested but is usually unsuccessful.

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