Perennial, subscapose, bulbous herb, .3 to 1.4 m tall. Leaves mostly basal, linear, 10 to 60 cm long, .4 to 2.3 cm. wide. Flowers white, turning greenish in age; borne in dense racemes, 3 to 13 cm. long. Found throughout the southern states east of the Mississippi River; mostly moist, wooded slopes, meadows, open fields and bogs.
The highest concentration of the toxin, an alkaloid, is found in the bulb of the plant. The alkaloid, which is cumulative, is also found in the fruit and leaves. It is consumed only when other forage is unavailable and cases of toxicity are observed in the spring, summer and fall. Cattle and sheep are most commonly affected.
Animals exhibit vomiting, frothing at the mouth, staggering, rapid respiration, subnormal temperature and weakness. Death is caused by respiratory failure.
Keep animals quiet. Sedatives may be given. Gastric protectives may be administered by stomach tube unless this procedure excites the animal.
Nearly all members of the milkweed genus (Asckpias) are erect or spreading, perennial herbs with milky sap and arising from thick rootstocks or rhizomes. Leaves opposite, whorled or rarely alternate, simple, linear to widely ovate, entire. Flowers borne in dense, often showy umbels, often white or greenish white but may also be red, orange, lavender or pale green. Fruit, an elongated follicle splitting on one side and releasing many seeds topped with white, silky hairs that enables them to be widely dispersed by the wind. The milkweed genus is found throughout the southern area in fields, along roadsides, fence rows, open woods, pastures and waste places.
Various species of milkweeds have yielded resinoids, alkaloids and glycosides. All parts of the plant are toxic, whether consumed green or dried in hay. Cattle, sheep, goats, horses and poultry are all sensitive to the effects of milkweed. Consuming the toxic plant in the amount of 2% of body weight can cause symptoms.
Losses usually occur when animals are forced to graze the plant due to lack of other forage. Usual signs include staggering, depression, weakness, labored respiration and dilated pupils. Animals go down and exhibit tetanic spasms before going into a coma and dying.
Laxatives and intravenous fluids are suggested.