Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Be Cautious About What Plants You Throw Over the Fence

By David Burton
University Extension

Some house plants and shrubs contain toxins in the leaves, stems or flowers and can be poisonous to pets and livestock according to John Hobbs, agriculture and rural development specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

“Don’t throw pruned shrubs or dying house plants over the back fence or into an area that livestock, cats or dogs can reach. Be sure any trimmings or dying plants are burned or gotten rid of in a safe manner,” said Hobbs.

Homeowners need to be aware that there are several landscape plants that are poisonous to livestock. Probably the most toxic are Japanese yews.

The azalea, rhododendrons, black locust, boxwood, buckeye, elderberry, Virginia creeper, and wisteria can cause serious illness or death with sufficient amounts consumed to livestock.

“There have been several confirmed cases of cow deaths due to cows eating Japanese yew trimmings and in one case trimmings were buried in a ravine but sprouted and grew the next spring and killed several head of the farmer’s cattle,” said Hobbs.

Wilted tree leaves of the prunus family, like cherry and plum, will give off cyanide gas when eaten and then that causes asphyxiation in ruminants.

Certain house plants can be toxic especially to curious pets that like to chew on things. These pets may end up chewing and consuming parts of plants.

“House plants that can kill a pet if they are consumed are the Chinese evergreen, calla lily, dieffenbachia, croton, and elephant ear,” said Hobbs.

There are also several flowers that you would not want to throw over the fence to livestock. For example, Hobbs says caladiums, cardinal flowers, and castor beans plants will poison livestock.

“Southwest Missouri has a growing goat population and they will eat almost anything in front of them and that can be dangerous. For example, rhubarb creates hypocalcaemia or a low calcium condition which in turn, will cause kidney failure in goats,” said Hobbs.

For more information, contact Hobbs at the MU Extension Center in McDonald County, (417) 223-4775.

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