Poisonous Plants of the Southern United States

poisonsumac.jpg (40840 bytes)poison sumac
Rhus vernix

Shrub or small tree, to 4 or 5 m tall. Leaves alternate, deciduous, pinnately compound; leaflets 7 to 13, elliptic to oblong, entire, 5 to 12 cm long, 2 to 5 cm wide, rachis not winged. This species varies from the non-poisonous species of sumac in that the leaflets are entire and the rachis is not winged; other species have serrate margins or if entire, the rachis is winged. Flowers in panicles in axils of lower leaves. Fruit similar R. toxicodendron but glabrous and smaller. Found throughout the southern states east of the Mississippi River but limited in distribution to very moist areas; bogs, pocosins, wet pine barrens and stream borders.

TOXICITY

The toxic principle is a phenolic compound called urushiol. It is a skin and mucous membrane irritant and is found in all parts of the plant. Some humans are quite sensitive to the effects of the toxin while others show no ill effects from coming into contact with the plant. The toxin has little or no effect on animals but pets may carry the irritating substance on their hair and thereby transmit it to humans.

SYMPTOMS

Susceptible humans exhibit intense itching with inflammation and the formation of blisters at the areas of contact. Animals are rarely affected. Burning maybe dangerous because the irritant may be transmitted by smoke.

TREATMENT

A physician should be consulted for proper treatment.

 

atamascolily.jpg (81096 bytes)atamasco lily
Zephyranthes atamasco

Perennial, scapose, bulbous herb, 10 to 25 cm tall. Bulbs onion-like, brown-coated. Leaves linear, sheathing at the base, 20 to 40 cm long, 3 to 8 cm wide. Flowers solitary, very showy, white, 7 to 10 cm long. Found in coastal plain and lower piedmont Virginia to Florida to Mississippi; most abundant in moist open woods and low meadows.

TOXICITY

The bulb of this plant is the most toxic portion. The leaves are also toxic but to a much lesser degree. Animals are usually poisoned in the spring time when the ground is wet and there is little forage.

SYMPTOMS

Cattle, horses and poultry have all been poisoned by this plant. Symptoms usually appear in 24 to 48 hours after eating the bulbs. Staggering, diarrhea with blood, collapse and death are the usual symptoms.

TREATMENT

Gastrointestinal protectives are recommended.

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