Poisonous Plants of the Southern United States

blacklocust.jpg (73556 bytes)black locust
Robinia pseudoacacia

Shrub or tree to 25 m tall with deeply furrowed, thick bark and usually paired thorns at the base of each compound leaf; thornless varieties have been developed. Leaves alternate, deciduous, pinnately compound; leaflets 9 to 19, elliptic to ovate, 2 to 5 cm long, 1 to 2 cm wide. Flowers showy, white, 1.5 to 2 cm broad, very fragrant; home in drooping racemes, 10 to 20 cm long. Pod 5 to 10 cm. long, 1 to 2 cm broad, mostly 4 to 8 seeded. Plant has been cultivated throughout the region and widely escaping; open woods, roadsides, fence rows, old fields, pinelands and sometimes in sandy areas but more common on clays.

TOXICITY

Toxic principles include a phytotoxin (robin) and a glycoside (robitin). Horses, cattle, sheep, poultry and humans may be poisoned by ingesting roots, bark, sprouts, seed pods and/or trimmings.

SYMPTOMS

Horses are the most susceptible animal to the effects of black locust. Weakness, posterior paralysis, depression and loss of appetite are signs commonly observed. Irregular pulse, difficult breathing and diarrhea are also seen.

TREATMENT

Insertion of a stomach tube and the administering of laxatives, such as mineral oil, are suggested. Stimulants may be needed.

 

chinaberry.jpg (46811 bytes)chinaberry
Melia azederach

Small to medium-sized, round-headed tree, to 12 m tall. Leaves alternate, deciduous, bipinnately compound, .3 to .9 m long; leaflets 2.5 to 5 cm long with deeply-toothed margins. Flowers pinkish to lavender, 1 to 1.5 cm long; borne in large, terminal panicles. Fruit barely fleshy, one-seeded, greenish-yellow to yellow-tan, 1 to 1.5 cm in diameter, persisting on the tree through much of the winter. Found throughout the south but rare in the more northern areas or higher altitudes. Once widely cultivated as a fast-growing, shade tree around small homes, escaping widely; roadsides, fence rows, around buildings and waste places.

TOXICITY

The fruit (berries) are the most toxic part of the tree. The leaves, bark and flowers are only mildly toxic and usually cause no problem. Most poisonings occur in the fall when the berries ripen and fall from the tree.

Swine and sheep are most often affected. Toxicity may occur after consumption of more than one-half per cent of body weight. Poultry and cattle can be poisoned, but larger amounts are required. Children have been poisoned by eating the berries.

SYMPTOMS

The gastrointestinal tract is affected, therefore vomiting and diarrhea are the commonly observed signs. Occasionally, central nervous system involvement is observed in the form of severe depression or excitement.

TREATMENT

Gastrointestinal evacuation is suggested.

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