Tansy Ragwort (Common name)

General poisoning notes:

Tansy ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) is a naturalized herb that is found in fields in eastern Canada and British Columbia. This plant contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids which primarily cause irreversible liver cirrhosis in animals that ingest them. This plant has poisoned cattle and horses, and possibly goats. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, the mysterious Pictou cattle disease in Nova Scotia resulted in heavy losses of cattle. Tansy ragwort ingestion was recognized as causing the problem. In the 1960s cattle losses in Oregon valued at several million dollars were attributed to tansy ragwort ingestion. This plant should be eradicated from forage and crops (Cheeke and Schull 1985, Huxtable 1989). Animals and humans may be poisoned if they drink the milk of animals that have ingested this plant (Molyneux and James 1990, Bain 1990).

References:

  • Bain, J. F. 1991. The biology of Canadian weeds. 96. Senecio jacobaea L. Can. J. Plant Sci., 71: 127-140.
  • Cheeke, P. R., Shull, L. R. 1985. Natural toxicants in feeds and poisonous plants. AVI Publishing Company, Inc., Westport, Conn., USA. 492 pp.
  • Fuller, T. C., McClintock, E. 1986. Poisonous plants of California. Univ. California Press, Berkeley, Calif., USA. 432 pp.
  • Huxtable, R. J. 1989. Human health implications of pyrrolizidine alkaloids and herbs containing them. Pages 41-86 in Cheeke, P. R., ed. Toxicants of plant origin. Vol. I. Alkaloids. CRC Press, Inc., Boca Raton, Fla., USA. 335 pp.
  • Molyneux, R. J., James, L. F. 1990. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids in milk: thresholds of intoxication. Vet. Hum. Toxicol., 32: 94-103.
  • Pearson, E. G. 1977. Clinical manifestations of tansy ragwort poisoning. Mod. Vet. Pract., 57: 421-424.
  • Pearson, E. G. 1991. Liver failure attributable to pyrrolizidine alkaloid toxicosis and associated with inspiratory dyspnea in ponies: three cases (1982-1988). J. Am. Vet. Med. Assoc., 198: 1651-1654.
  • Pethick, W. H. 1921. Pictou cattle disease. Can. Vet. Rec., 2: 13-16.

Nomenclature:

Scientific Name:
Senecio jacobaea L.
Vernacular name(s):
tansy ragwort
Scientific family name:
Compositae
Vernacular family name:
composite

Go to ITIS*ca for more taxonomic information on: Senecio jacobaea

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

  • British Columbia
  • New Brunswick
  • Newfoundland
  • Nova Scotia
  • Ontario
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Quebec

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: tansy ragwort - Google Search

Notes on Poisonous plant parts:

All parts of the plant contain toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids. The flowers contain the highest concentration of the toxins. The concentration in the leaves increases to a maximum just before flower maturity (Johnson and Molyneux 1986).

Toxic parts:

  • all parts
  • flowers
  • leaves
  • stems

References:

  • Johnson, A. E., Molyneux, R. J. 1986. The pyrrolizidine alkaloid free base and N-oxide content of toxic range plants. J. Toxicol. Toxin Rev., 5: 256.
  • Pethick, W. H. 1921. Pictou cattle disease. Can. Vet. Rec., 2: 13-16.

Notes on Toxic plant chemicals:

Pyrrolizidine alkaloids such as jacobine and seneciphylline are found in tansy ragwort. The content of these alkaloids has been measured at a mean of 0.31% (Cheeke and Schull 1985, Johnson and Molyneux 1986).

Toxic plant chemicals:

  • jacobine
  • seneciphylline

References:

  • Cheeke, P. R., Shull, L. R. 1985. Natural toxicants in feeds and poisonous plants. AVI Publishing Company, Inc., Westport, Conn., USA. 492 pp.
  • Johnson, A. E., Molyneux, R. J. 1986. The pyrrolizidine alkaloid free base and N-oxide content of toxic range plants. J. Toxicol. Toxin Rev., 5: 256.

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:

So-called Pictou disease was identified in Pictou county, N. S., in cattle and horses; it also occurred in Prince Edward Island. For 20 years, the Canadian government ordered affected herds to be slaughtered before feeding trials confirmed, in 1906, that ingestion of tansy ragwort was responsible. The pyrrolizidine alkaloids cause irreversible liver cirrhosis, with pronounced fibrosis and biliary hyperplasia. Other symptoms include a peculiar bleached color of the hair, nervousness, incoordination, coma, and death. A rapid loss of milk production occurs in lactating cattle, and the milk may taste bitter with an unpleasant odor. Postmortem findings showed liver cirrhosis, often an enlarged gall bladder, abdominal edema, and edema in the mucosa and submucosa of the stomach and intestine (Pethick 1921, Cheeke and Schull 1985, Scimeca and Oehme 1985).

In a case in Oregon, a 3-week-old calf died. Post-mortem findings showed signs of liver cirrhosis; tansy ragwort poisoning was diagnosed. The dam did not show any signs of tansy ragwort poisoning. Milk from goats was also shown to pass the pyrrolizidine alkaloid (Pearson 1977).

References:

  • Cheeke, P. R., Shull, L. R. 1985. Natural toxicants in feeds and poisonous plants. AVI Publishing Company, Inc., Westport, Conn., USA. 492 pp.
  • Pearson, E. G. 1977. Clinical manifestations of tansy ragwort poisoning. Mod. Vet. Pract., 57: 421-424.
  • Pethick, W. H. 1921. Pictou cattle disease. Can. Vet. Rec., 2: 13-16.

Goats

General symptoms of poisoning:

Notes on poisoning:

Goats are not usually poisoned, but if they are fed tansy ragwort they produce mutagenic milk. The pyrrolizidine alkaloids are found in the milk (Huxtable 1989).

References:

  • Cheeke, P. R., Shull, L. R. 1985. Natural toxicants in feeds and poisonous plants. AVI Publishing Company, Inc., Westport, Conn., USA. 492 pp.
  • Huxtable, R. J. 1989. Human health implications of pyrrolizidine alkaloids and herbs containing them. Pages 41-86 in Cheeke, P. R., ed. Toxicants of plant origin. Vol. I. Alkaloids. CRC Press, Inc., Boca Raton, Fla., USA. 335 pp.

Horses

General symptoms of poisoning:

References:

  • Cheeke, P. R., Shull, L. R. 1985. Natural toxicants in feeds and poisonous plants. AVI Publishing Company, Inc., Westport, Conn., USA. 492 pp.
  • Pearson, E. G. 1991. Liver failure attributable to pyrrolizidine alkaloid toxicosis and associated with inspiratory dyspnea in ponies: three cases (1982-1988). J. Am. Vet. Med. Assoc., 198: 1651-1654.

Humans

General symptoms of poisoning:

Notes on poisoning:

Pyrrolizidine alkaloids from tansy ragwort were found in honey produced in Oregon and Washington states. The honey is off-color and bitter and is usually not sold. The amount of toxin is so low that acute symptoms of poisoning are unlikely. However, because the effects are cumulative, long term ingestion of this honey cannot be considered safe. There are no records of toxicity from ingesting honey (Fuller and McClintock 1986).

References:

  • Fuller, T. C., McClintock, E. 1986. Poisonous plants of California. Univ. California Press, Berkeley, Calif., USA. 432 pp.

Sheep

No details about poisoning symptoms available.

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