Dogbane: the Toxic Plant You Didn’t Know About
Many plants contain some level of toxin. For instance, the common garden rhododendron and the azalea contain andromedatoxin. Consuming these plants can cause death. Most people know not to consume them.
However, there are other plants not as well known that animal owners in particular should be aware of. The pretty dogbane is one of the most common causes of poisoning in horses.
How do you recognize it? Cheryl Lisin from the Lost Coast Interpretive Association writes,
Dogbane is a ground hugging perennial reaching about 6 inches tall. In late spring, it has small pink flowers which turn into long pods containing seeds. The foliage turns a pretty yellow in fall then completely disappears during winter dormancy. Growing in grassland, rocky soil or under conifers, it likes the dappled sunlight of forest margins or chaparral and makes a great landscape plant.
Apocynum androsaemifolium is the scientific name. Its close relative, Apocynum cannabinum is called Indian hemp and was used to make string. Both range throughout much of California, Indian hemp preferring streamsides. They are in the Apocynaceae family. Apocynum is Greek for ‘away dog’ and refers to the plant’s toxicity.
The best defense against livestock poisoning, states this site produced by the University of California at Davis, is to make sure animals have plenty of good forage as they will naturally avoid toxic plants if able to do so.