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Mr. Smarty Plants - Toxicity of Lupinus ssp. (bluebonnets)

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Monday - June 25, 2007

From: Prairieville, LA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: Toxicity of Lupinus ssp. (bluebonnets)
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Are bluebonnets toxic to cattle?

ANSWER:

There are six species native to Texas that are known as bluebonnets (all designated as the Official State Flower): Lupinus subcarnosus, L. texensis, L. havardii, L. concinnus, L. plattensis, and L. perennis. In general, many species of Lupinus are called bluebonnets and most of those are considered toxic. In particular, the seeds are the culprits with high levels of alkaloids. Lupinus latifolius (broadleaf lupine) and the alkaloid anagyrine contained in its seeds (when eaten by a pregnant cow) is implicated in causing crooked calf disease. The Canadian Poisonous Information System lists symptoms of poisoning by Lupinus sericeus (silky lupine) for cattle, sheep, and horses. Montana Plant Life lists Lupinus arbustus ssp. calcaratus (longspur lupine) and Lupinus argenteus (silvery lupine), as well as L. sericeus, as having poisonous leaves and seeds.

L. perennis (listed as toxic by the Poisonous Plants of Pennsylvania database) is the only member of the genus native to Louisiana or Texas specifically designated as poisonous. In fact, the Texas Toxic Plant Database, based on the book, Toxic Plants of Texas by Charles R. Hart and others from the Texas Cooperative Extension Service of Texas A&M University, does not list any lupines at all. This suggests that poisoning by lupines in Texas and Louisiana (which share many of the same species of Lupinus) is not a serious problem. Nevertheless, Poisonous Plants of North Carolina lists all Lupinus species as toxic if large quantities of seeds are eaten. If cattle are kept in an area where there is little forage except bluebonnets with many mature seed pods, there could be serious concern about risk of poisoning.


 

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