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Maple Leaves

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Maple Leaves

Notes on poisoning: Senecio vulgaris


General poisoning notes:

Common groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) is a naturalized herb found across much of Canada in fields and waste places. This plant contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which cause irreversible liver damage after chronic exposure. Cattle and horses have died after ingesting common groundsel. Humans use this plant in teas and herbal remedies in some parts of the world. Death occurred after some species of the genus Senecio were ingested. Humans should not ingest foods that contain any plant material from this genus. In a case of prenatal exposure, a mother ingested tea containing an estimated 0.343 mg of senecionine, resulting in fatal veno-occlusive disease in a newborn infant (Huxtable 1989, Spoerke and Smolinske 1990).

References:

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.

Lessard, P., Wilson, W. D., Olander, H. J., Rogers, Q. R., Mendel, V. E. 1986. Clinicopathologic study of horses surviving pyrrolizidine alkaloid (Senecio vulgaris) toxicosis. Am. J. Vet. Res., 47: 1776-1780.

Mendel, V. E., Witt, M. R., Gitchell, B. S., Gribble, D. N., Rogers, Q. R., Segall, H. J., Knight, H. D. 1988. Pyrrolizidine alkaloid-induced liver disease in horses: an early diagnosis. Am. J. Vet. Res., 49: 572-578.

Spoerke, D. G., Smolinske, S. C. 1990. Toxicity of houseplants. CRC Press, Inc., Boca Raton, Fla., USA. 335 pp.

Nomenclature:

Scientific Name: Senecio vulgaris L.

Vernacular name(s): common groundsel

Scientific family name: Compositae

Vernacular family name: composite

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

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
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Northwest Territories
Nova Scotia
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Quebec
Saskatchewan

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

Senecio vulgaris:

Images: images.google.com

Notes on Poisonous plant parts:

The highest concentration of pyrrolizidine alkaloids is found in the flowers and the lowest in the roots. The amount of toxin increases in the leaves, reaching a maximum just before flower maturity (Johnson and Molyneux 1986).

Toxic parts:

all parts
flowers
leaves

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.

Notes on Toxic plant chemicals:

Senecionine, a pyrrolizidine alkaloid, is found in common groundsel. A total of less than 1% alkaloids was measured (Johnson and Molyneux 1986, Huxtable 1989).

Toxic plant chemicals:

senecionine
Image of senecionine

Chemical diagram(s) are courtesy of Ruth McDiarmid, Biochemistry Technician, Kamloops Range Station, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Kamploops, British Columbia, Canada.

References:

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.

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:

blindness
death
incoordination
liver, cirrhosis of
prostration

Notes on poisoning:

Cattle were poisoned after ingesting common groundsel. In some cases, calves 3-8 months old died, whereas older cows showed no clinical signs. Calves from cows eating contaminated hay during pregnancy died the following autumn. The same effects were obtained experimentally from the offspring of rats fed the toxins during pregnancy. Other symptoms include nervousness, incoordination, pushing against objects, walking in circles, and blindness with glazed eyes (Fuller and McClintock 1986).

References:

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

Horses

General symptoms of poisoning:

anorexia
ataxia
death
depression
diarrhea
hemoglobinuria
liver, cirrhosis of

Notes on poisoning:

Ingesting common groundsel leads to sickness and death. Early symptoms include anorexia and listlessness. Animal owners do not usually notice problems until liver damage occurs. Experimental tests show that routine measurement of food intake and weekly body weight can alert owners to pyrrolizidine poisoning early enough so that liver damage can be reduced. Measuring the serum bile acid is the best way to predict animal survival. Liver damage was induced in horses after they ingested an average of 233 +/- 9.2 mg of pyrrolizidine alkaloid per kilogram of body weight. Other symptoms include ataxia, head pressing, and stall walking. Megalocytic hepatopathy develops. Liver damage is often severe before obvious clinical signs develop (Lessard et al. 1986, Mendel et al. 1988).

References:

Lessard, P., Wilson, W. D., Olander, H. J., Rogers, Q. R., Mendel, V. E. 1986. Clinicopathologic study of horses surviving pyrrolizidine alkaloid (Senecio vulgaris) toxicosis. Am. J. Vet. Res., 47: 1776-1780.

Mendel, V. E., Witt, M. R., Gitchell, B. S., Gribble, D. N., Rogers, Q. R., Segall, H. J., Knight, H. D. 1988. Pyrrolizidine alkaloid-induced liver disease in horses: an early diagnosis. Am. J. Vet. Res., 49: 572-578.

Humans

General symptoms of poisoning:

liver, cirrhosis of

Notes on poisoning:

Common groundsel is used in herbal medicine and teas around the world. Humans should not ingest any foods, teas, or remedies that contain any plant material from the genus Senecio. Chronic poisoning occurs, resulting in veno-occlusive disease in children and Budd-Chiari syndrome (more commonly) in adults (Huxtable 1989).

References:

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.

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Date modified: 2009-09-01