WHITE SNAKE ROOT
- Distinguishing features
- Each perennial herb is about 2-4 feet tall; the leaves are opposite, simple, toothed, three-nerved; the heads have 8-30 small white flowers without ray flowers.
- the plant is 2 to 3 feet tall with dark green opposite and acuminate leaves with serrated margins. The brilliant white flowers appear in clusters at the top of the plant during Sept. or Oct.
- Geographic range
- the plant grows throughout the east central and northeastern U.S. It occurs primarily in rich, well-shaded forest soils or at the interface between forests and croplands.
- Toxic principle
- not definitively determined. Trematone, a ketone, is believed to be the primary toxin. The toxin is readily passed in the milk and may poison nursing animals.
- the vegetative parts of the plant are toxic (both fresh and dried). A cumulative dosage of 1% to 10% of b.w. is toxic or lethal.
- Clinical signs
- horses develop depression, weakness, signs of congestive heart failure (ventral edema, jugular pulse, tachycardia), tremors and posterior weakness. Signs appear several days after ingesting the plant and deah can occur within 3 to 14 days.
- the toxin (trematone) can be detected. Serum chemistry alterations include large increases in CPK and alkaline phosphatase, moderate elevations in AST and ALT.
- in horses there is congestive heart failure with myocardial degeneration, necrosis and fibrosis. Hepatic necrosis and lipidosis may be present. In cattle, post-mortem lesions include hepatic congestion and lipidosis and variable cardiac hemorrhages. Myocardial necrosis has not been observed in cattle. Cattle become depressed, unsteady and ataxic. Muscle tremors are prominent about the face, neck, flank and hindquarters. Coma a death develop within 3 to 10 days. Additional signs may include constipation, salivation and the odor of ketone or acetone on the breath.
- Supportive and symptomatic care (heart and liver failure)
Read more in the Poisonous Plants of Pennsylvania Publication