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Poisonous Plants

Amianthium muscaetoxicum Minimize

GENUS: Amianthium

Amianthium muscaetoxicum (Walt.) Gray - Fly poison

FAMILY: Liliaceae—the Lily Family

Found worldwide, this major group of plants contains predominantly perennial herbs having various rootstocks: rhizomes, bulbs, corms, or tubers. The family characteristics are: flowers: mostly bisexual, radially symmetric; perianth: usually large and showy, divided into 2 series called tepals; sepals: (outer whorl) may not be readily distinguished in shape or color from the petals (inner whorl); stamens: routinely 6; pistil: 1; ovary: superior, generally with 3 chambers (trilocular); ovules: distributed down the central axis. Economically the lily family is very important for its members used in horticulture. The cultivated ornamental plants include autumn crocus (Colchicum), tulip, Star-of-Bethlehem, hyacinth, lily, scillas, grape hyacinth, lily-of-the valley, and other bulbs of "Dutch trade." For a discussion of poisonous, cultivated members of the Liliaceae see Colchicum, Convallaria, and Ornithogallum. Crops in this family include onions (and related alliums) and asparagus. Garden plants include day lilies (Hemerocallis) and bishop's coat (Hosta). Wild flowers in the family include several major poisonous plants (see Veratrum) as well as minor elements. Many of these constitute a substantial portion of our "spring flora" such as trillium, true and false Solomon's seals, and dog-tooth violet (trout-lily).

PHENOLOGY: Fly poison flowers June and July.

DISTRIBUTION: Amianthium muscaetoxicum inhabits open woods and moist areas, often on acid soils.

PLANT CHARACTERISTICS: Tepals: 6, glandless, several-nerved, white to green, 1 cm wide; stamens: 6, filaments flattened; ovary: 3-lobed. deeply cleft and appearing like separate units, each lobe with a stout, conic style with minute stigma; capsule: containing 1 or 2 oblong, purple-brown seeds per cell; perennial plants growing from a thick bulb 5-8 cm in the ground; basal leaves: linear, 4 dm x 2 cm; stem: appearing late than basal leaves; stem rleaves: much reduced; racemes: at first conic, becoming cylindric; stalks to 10 dm or more.

POISONOUS PARTS: Bulbs and leaves are toxic.

SYMPTOMS: Symptoms include salivation, nausea, rapid or irregular breathing, staggering,weakness, lowered temperature, coma, and death due to respiratory failure.

POISONOUS PRINCIPLES: An unknown alkaloid(s) is the probable cause of toxicosis.

CONFUSED TAXA: Grasslike basal leaves and tall stalks with white flowers are not uncommon in the Liliaceae. Some of the confused taxa may be poisonous (e.g, Melanthium spp., which cause nervousness, anorexia, dyspnea, nausea, slobbering, sweating, weakness, stupor, weakened heart rate, and respiration), while others may not be. A botanical specialist should be consulted if Amianthium poisoning is suspected.

SPECIES OF ANIMALS AFFECTED: Experimental feedings have determined that sheep and cattle are susceptible (sheep death was produced from administration of leaves equal to 0.5% of the animal's weight). Losses may occur in early spring when little else is available for livestock forage.

TREATMENT: (11a)(b); (1)

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