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Mr. Smarty Plants - Is Texas ragwort (Senecio ampullaceus) toxic to livestock?

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Tuesday - May 05, 2009

From: Gause, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: Is Texas ragwort (Senecio ampullaceus) toxic to livestock?
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Mr. Smarty Plants, I have a question related to Texas Ragwort (Senecio ampullaceus): I am concerned about toxicity to livestock as well as interested in natural control methods. I was recently told that this particular plant is toxic to animals, and a cursory check seems to indicate that certian senecio's are toxic, but perhaps not Texas Ragwort. How do I identify the plants on my land to be Texas Ragwort and how do I control them naturally? Thanks for your help.

ANSWER:

Toxic Plants of Texas lists Senecio ampullaceus (Texas ragwort) as being toxic with cattle dying from liver failure several months after eating the plants. This liver cirrhosis is typical of that produced by pyrrolizidine alkaloids.  Toxic Plants of Texas also lists Senecio flaccidus var. douglasii [syn. Senecio douglasii] (Douglas' ragwort), Senecio riddellii (Riddell's ragwort) and Packera glabella [syn. Senecio glabella] (butterweed) as toxic. Of these species, S. ampullaceus is the only one of the Senecios to occur in Milam County according to the USDA Plants Database.

Several other databases (Poisonous Plants of North Carolina, Cornell University Plants Poisonous to Livestock, University of California-Davis Toxic Plants  and University of Pennsylvania Poisonous Plants) list all Senecio spp. as toxic and the Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System lists several species of Senecio as being toxic. Not all the databases agree on the severity of the toxicity.  Given that all species of Senecio have some toxicity, it isn't really necessary to distinguish which one to control—you probably should endeavor to control any species of Senecio that you find in your pasture.  Management practices include providing plenty of hay or other feed so that cattle will not be tempted to eat the young ragwort plants.  Also, sheep, which are more tolerant of the toxins, can be used to clear the pasture of the plants.  Additionally, Toxic Plants of Texas suggests some herbicidal controls.


Senecio ampullaceus

Senecio ampullaceus

 

 

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