Star of Bethlehem flower and bulb toxic to animals

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by nashvillechick, Nov 1, 2012.

  1. nashvillechick

    nashvillechick Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 2, 2012
    Nashville, TN
    Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) used to be a pretty bedding plant, but has now gotten into yards and is all but impossible to kill. Besides multiplying like crazy, the problem with it is that all parts of the plant and bulb are toxic. The leaves look a lot like wild onions (but no odor), and the flowers are small, white, with 6 petals. I'm sweating the next couple of days out as my hens ate a lot of them today when I was doing yard work. I just read several posts online about dogs and goats dying after eating them. I just lost one hen to what looked like cardiac failure---could have been this. I can't stand the thought of more losses. Wish I'd known that the plant was toxic before now.
    http://www.btny.purdue.edu/weedscience/2005/starofbeth05.pdf
     
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  2. chfite

    chfite Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The article you presented does not mention how much of the plant has to be eaten to suffer ill effects. Many things that are toxic to humans are not to animals, toxic amounts to grazing cattle might be different from the amount for other animals. As with most things, it is the dose that makes the poison.

    I don't t know if cattle discriminate among the grasses as they feed. They have big mouths; and probably don't. I imagine that they simply eat what's there.

    I would venture that chickens won't willingly eat anything bad for them, if they have choices. Poke salad berries are poisonous to humans. My chickens will eat it, but not a lot at once. Maybe they moderate their intake. My chickens are in the process of cleaning out my garden. They won't eat the old, hanging cayenne peppers.

    When the chickens have many choices, I doubt that we need to worry.

    Chris
     
  3. nashvillechick

    nashvillechick Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 2, 2012
    Nashville, TN
    Chris---I hope very much that you're correct, as my yard is full of this stuff. Everything I read said that the bulbs are the most toxic part, but perhaps, as you say, this is not so for poultry. They don't generally have great access to the bulbs, but I've been digging to alter water runoff, so what had been below ground is now above. The hens are up and clucking this morning, so I'm incredibly relieved. I'll still be careful with it, though, and would not let a dog or other mammal eat any of it, as even the leaves appear to be deadly to them. The thing that was so strange about it was that the hens went after the bulbs like they were mealworms!
     
  4. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    I've had this stuff around my pond for years and had no problems. I can't say for sure if anyone ever ate it---I've had dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, goats, horses and human toddlers----but no one's died.
     
  5. nashvillechick

    nashvillechick Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 2, 2012
    Nashville, TN
    Very good to hear. Are you positive it's the same plant?
     

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