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Amianthium muscitoxicum (Fly poison)
Brundage, Stephanie

Amianthium muscitoxicum

Amianthium muscitoxicum (Walter) A. Gray

Fly Poison, Crow Poison

Liliaceae (Lily Family)

Synonym(s): Chrosperma muscitoxicum, Zigadenus muscitoxicus


USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

The numerous narrow, elongated leaves and the 12-24 in. flower stalk superficially resemble common hyacinth. Flowers, occuring in a dense, showy raceme are first white, then bronzy-green. Leaves tend to spread outward and arch downward.

Pulp from a crushed bulb, mixed with sugar, is used to poison flies, hence the species name, from the Latin muscae ("flies") and toxicum ("poison"). Bunchflower (Veratrum virginicum) has a somewhat similar white flower; its three petals and three sepals have narrow, stalk-like bases with two dark glands on each; there are several spikes in a cluster.


From the Image Gallery

20 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Usually 1 to 2 feet high, occasionally up to 5 feet.
Flower: Flowers in 2 to 6 inch clusters.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Green
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun , Jul , Aug
Bloom Notes: A sticky substance coats the blooms, causing them to glisten.


USA: AL , AR , DE , FL , GA , KY , LA , MD , MO , MS , NC , NJ , NY , OK , PA , SC , TN , VA , WV
Native Distribution: PA to WV & MO, s. to FL, MS & OK
Native Habitat: Mesic woods; seep areas; low pinelands; savannas; meadows; sandhills

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium , High
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
Soil Description: Moist, acid soil, rich or poor.
Conditions Comments: Does best with at least 1 or 2 hours of direct sun. Tolerates seasonal flooding.


Use Ornamental: Good for low, white color in partial shade in the eastern US.
Use Other: Crushed bulbs mixed with sugar can be used as a fly poison.
Warning: This plant contains a very toxic alkaloid, and the entire plant is poisonous, especially the bulb, to humans and livestock if ingested. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a personís age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plantís different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes


Propagation Material: Root Division , Seeds
Description: Fly poison can be propagated by division and with difficulty from seed. Plant seed as soon as ripe or in the spring.
Seed Collection: Store seed at room temperature.

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE


Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski

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Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Amianthium muscitoxicum in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Amianthium muscitoxicum in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Amianthium muscitoxicum


Record Modified: 2023-04-10
Research By: TWC Staff

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