False Hellebore (Common name)

General poisoning notes:

False hellebore (Veratrum viride) is a native perennial plant that is found in parts of eastern and western Canada. The plant contains several steroidal alkaloids. Jervine was shown to be teratogenic in laboratory animals. Livestock do not often ingest the plant, but cattle, poultry, and sheep, have been poisoned. Some deaths may have occurred. The roots, rhizome, and young shoots are most toxic. Humans have been poisoned after ingesting the plant. Extracts from the plant have been used in cases of hypertension and as an insecticide (Fyles 1920, Dayton 1960, Campbell et al. 1985, Mulligan and Munro 1987, Jaffe et al. 1989).

References:

  • Campbell, M. A., Brown, K. S., Hassell, J. R., Horigan, E. A., Keeler, R. F. 1985. Inhibition of limb chondrogenesis by a Veratrum alkaloid: temporal specificity in vivo and in vitro. Can. Dep. Agric. Exp. Farms Bull., 111: 464-470.
  • Dayton, W. A. 1960. Notes on western range forbes. U. S. For. Serv. Wash. Agric. Hand., 161. 254 pp.
  • Fyles, F. 1920. Principal poisonous plants of Canada. Can. Dep. Agric. Exp. Farms. Bull. 39. 112 pp.
  • Jaffe, A. M., Gephardt, D., Courtemanche, L. 1990. Poisoning due to ingestion of Veratrum viride (false hellebore). J. Emerg. Med., 8: 161-167.
  • Kingsbury, J. M. 1964. Poisonous plants of the United States and Canada. Prentice-Hall Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J., USA. 626 pp.
  • Long, R. 1981. Some liliaceae of British Columbia. Davidsonia, 12: 85-88.
  • Reynard, G. B., Norton, J. B. 1942. Poisonous plants of Maryland in relation to livestock. Univ. MD. Agric. Exp. Stn. Bull., A10. 312 pp.
  • Underhill, J. E. 1959. A case of hellebore poisoning. Can. Field-Nat., 73: 128-129.

Nomenclature:

Scientific Name:
Veratrum viride Ait.
Vernacular name(s):
false hellebore
Scientific family name:
Liliaceae
Vernacular family name:
lily

Go to ITIS*ca for more taxonomic information on: Veratrum viride

References:

  • Agriculture Quebec. 1975. Noms des maladies des plantes du Canada/ Names of plant diseases in Canada. Quebec City, Que., Canada. 288 pp.
  • Alex, J. F., Cayouette, R., Mulligan, G. A. 1980. Common and botanical names of weeds in Canada/Noms populaire et scientifiques des plantes nuisibles du Canada. Revised. Agric. Can. Publ., Ottawa, Ont., Canada. 132 pp.
  • Bailey, L. H., Bailey, E. Z. 1976. Hortus third. Revised. MacMillan, New York, N.Y., USA. 1290 pp.
  • Scoggan, H. J. 1978, 1979. The flora of Canada. Nat. Mus. Nat. Sci. (Ottawa) Publ. Bot. 7(1)-7(4). 1711 pp.
  • Van Wijk, H. L. 1911. A dictionary of plant names. Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, The Netherlands. 1444 pp.
  • Victorin, M. 1964. Flore Laurentienne. 2nd ed. Univ. Montreal, Montreal, Que., Canada. 952 pp.

Geographic Information

  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Labrador
  • New Brunswick
  • Northwest Territories
  • Quebec
  • Yukon Territory

References:

  • Bailey, L. H., Bailey, E. Z. 1976. Hortus third. Revised. MacMillan, New York, N.Y., USA. 1290 pp.
  • Boivin, B. 1966, 1967. Énumération des plantes du Canada. Provencheria 6. Nat. Can. (Que.) 93: 253-274; 371-437; 583-646; 989-1063. 94: 131-157; 471-528; 625-655.

Image or illustration

Images: false hellebore - Google Search

Notes on Poisonous plant parts:

The steroidal alkaloids are most abundant in roots, rhizomes, and young shoots. Sheep can apparently eat, with impunity, plants that were frosted in the autumn (Dayton 1960).

Toxic parts:

  • rhizome
  • roots
  • young shoots

References:

  • Campbell, M. A., Brown, K. S., Hassell, J. R., Horigan, E. A., Keeler, R. F. 1985. Inhibition of limb chondrogenesis by a Veratrum alkaloid: temporal specificity in vivo and in vitro. Can. Dep. Agric. Exp. Farms Bull., 111: 464-470.
  • Dayton, W. A. 1960. Notes on western range forbes. U. S. For. Serv. Wash. Agric. Hand., 161. 254 pp.

Notes on Toxic plant chemicals:

The steroidal alkaloid jervine has been isolated from false hellebore. This alkaloid can exert teratogenic effects in several animal species. The LD-50 for jervine in two strains of mice was 220 mg/kg and 260 mg/kg. Some strains of mice were resistant to the teratogenic effects of jervine (Campbell et al. 1985). Several other alkaloids have also been isolated. Germidine is an alkaloid that was studied as a possible drug for hypertension (Claus and Tyler 1965).

Toxic plant chemicals:

  • germidine
  • jervine

References:

  • Campbell, M. A., Brown, K. S., Hassell, J. R., Horigan, E. A., Keeler, R. F. 1985. Inhibition of limb chondrogenesis by a Veratrum alkaloid: temporal specificity in vivo and in vitro. Can. Dep. Agric. Exp. Farms Bull., 111: 464-470.
  • Claus, E. P., Tyler, V. E. 1965. Pharmacognosy. Lea & Febiger, Philadelphia, Pa., USA. 572 pp.

Animals/Human Poisoning:

Note: When an animal is listed without additional information, the literature (as of 1993) contained no detailed explanation.

Cattle

General symptoms of poisoning:

Notes on poisoning:

Cattle generally avoid ingesting the plant, although young animals may ingest it, sometimes with fatal results. As with humans, the plant causes depression in an animal's heart rate, low blood pressure, and vomiting (Fyles 1920, Reynard and Norton 1942).

References:

  • Fyles, F. 1920. Principal poisonous plants of Canada. Can. Dep. Agric. Exp. Farms. Bull. 39. 112 pp.
  • Reynard, G. B., Norton, J. B. 1942. Poisonous plants of Maryland in relation to livestock. Univ. MD. Agric. Exp. Stn. Bull., A10. 312 pp.

Humans

General symptoms of poisoning:

Notes on poisoning:

Humans have ingested false hellebore, mistaking it for another plant. The symptoms include reduced heart rate, low blood pressure, and vomiting. Other symptoms include blurred vision, cramps, nausea, dizziness, and chills. Atropine is used in initial treatment (Boivin 1948, Underhill 1959, Jaffe et al. 1989). False hellebore was used by West Coast Indians to commit suicide (Long 1981).

References:

  • Jaffe, A. M., Gephardt, D., Courtemanche, L. 1990. Poisoning due to ingestion of Veratrum viride (false hellebore). J. Emerg. Med., 8: 161-167.
  • Long, R. 1981. Some liliaceae of British Columbia. Davidsonia, 12: 85-88.
  • Underhill, J. E. 1959. A case of hellebore poisoning. Can. Field-Nat., 73: 128-129.

Poultry

Rodents

General symptoms of poisoning:

References:

  • Campbell, M. A., Brown, K. S., Hassell, J. R., Horigan, E. A., Keeler, R. F. 1985. Inhibition of limb chondrogenesis by a Veratrum alkaloid: temporal specificity in vivo and in vitro. Can. Dep. Agric. Exp. Farms Bull., 111: 464-470.

Sheep

General symptoms of poisoning:

Notes on poisoning:

Sheep are apparently less affected by ingesting false hellebore and can eat the leaves with apparent impunity after the leaves have been killed by frost (Reynard and Norton 1942, Dayton 1960).

References:

  • Dayton, W. A. 1960. Notes on western range forbes. U. S. For. Serv. Wash. Agric. Hand., 161. 254 pp.
  • Reynard, G. B., Norton, J. B. 1942. Poisonous plants of Maryland in relation to livestock. Univ. MD. Agric. Exp. Stn. Bull., A10. 312 pp.

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