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 1. Alpacas 101: Getting Started
 Newbie with million questions, Toxic Plants?
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19 Posts

Posted - 06/06/2007 :  5:01:01 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hello, I am completely new to alpacas, new to the forum, and have a lot to learn before I'm ready to buy. I am in west central Indiana with about 4 acres. While I'm learning I would like to start getting my land ready. Tasks that I can get started on include removing bad plants, planting good plants, fencing, shelter, and so on. I have seen references to a toxic plant list but have not found the list. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Many many more questions to come. Thanks, Shawn

I know nothing but hope to improve. I'm here to learn.


750 Posts

Posted - 06/06/2007 :  6:17:41 PM  Show Profile  Visit richbye's Homepage  Send richbye a Yahoo! Message  Reply with Quote
Ok, here's the list I have for toxic plants:
black locust
black walnut
bracken fern
black nightshade
broom snakeweed
death camas
false hellebore
hemlock (poison hemlock and water hemlock)
mountain mahogony
mushroom (Amanita)
oleander (bloody)
poison oak/ivy
ryegrass (due to endophtyes in the ryegrass)
Sorghum (in wild form Johnsongrass)
St. Johnswort
tall fescue
wild tobacco
western chokeberry
western yellow pine

The most toxic of the above are underlined and/or in bold. This is just a general list, and not all of the above plants/tress grow in all areas. You can take this list to the local conservation office to see which ones are common to your area. They would also know of more that may not be on this list that are toxic to other species as well (such as horses or sheep) but not known if toxic to alpacas.

Feel free to bombard us with as many questions as you want. "There are no dumb questions, just the the dummy that didn't ask them "

Good luck!


Gemstone Alpacas, Inc.
11300 Savage Rd.
Chaffee, NY 14030
(716) 868-0883
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19 Posts

Posted - 06/06/2007 :  7:12:29 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Thanks for the reply Jeanne. I have about a dozen on that list but fortunately none of the underlined or bold. I have also heard cherry is bad and I have a few of them.

I know nothing but hope to improve. I'm here to learn.
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4245 Posts

Posted - 06/06/2007 :  7:37:39 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hi Jeanne,
Oleander should be bold underlined, one leaf will kill a horse.
A few cities here in California have outlawed it

Rick & Pati Horn
All American Alpacas
35215 Avenida Maņana
Murrieta, Ca. 92563
(951) 679-7795
Life is good!
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1475 Posts

Posted - 06/06/2007 :  8:00:30 PM  Show Profile  Visit janechristie's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Hi Shawn,

Wild, or black cherry is the same way. One wilted cherry leaf can kill an animal, and the bark is also toxic. Very important, if you cut down trees, or cut off tree limbs, to dispose of them where the wilted leaves cannot find their way back into the pasture!

Boxwood is another common garden shrub that is toxic.


P.S. Added 6/7/07 for clarification - one wilted wild cherry leaf may, or may not be enough to kill an animal, but 2 ounces is known to be able to kill an animal. We don't know whether that was a large animal, like a cow or a horse, or a small animal, like a sheep or an alpaca (approximately 1/10th of the size of a horse or cow).
Ph: (804)-784-4837 Fax: (804)-784-4839

Edited by - janechristie on 06/07/2007 08:01:05 AM
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190 Posts

Posted - 06/07/2007 :  07:17:11 AM  Show Profile  Visit RickMoser's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I find this topic surprisingly inaccurate. There are literally 100's of "toxic" plants in your pasture whether you find them or not.. rarely do I see anyone mention mold or fungus as a source of toxicity and often mentioned so many plants that a new farmer may begin to think twice about raising any kind of livestock.

Truth be known.. most of them are not as deadly as some would lead you to believe such as cherry... the bark from a live tree is not going to harm your alpaca, neither will they die if they eat leaves from the tree. If it falls to the ground and wilts they have been known to kill cattle and I suppose horses as well, but it will take more than a couple leaves. Check around you area and see when the last time any livestock was reported to die from eating one leaf of anything..

Hemlock on the other hand is pretty bad especially the root.
Poison ivy is another one that is often reported as deadly but goats, sheep and alpaca will all eat from a vine and will in fact survive. Poke weed, will probably make them sick, but grandma used to make salads with it, don't ask me how and I wouldn't try it myself...
Another misreported evil plant is wild onion and garlic.. while these are bad for cattle, and too some degree not so good for horses.. I've seen other ruminants gobble them up readily and in at least one case I think it was the cure for source stomach in one animal.

Milkweed is just nasty, any animal that would eat it must be starving to begin with, accept of course the monark butterfly which is why birds wont even eat those. Which brings up an important point.. if you provide enough good forage for your stock, they wont be FORCED to eat the bad stuff. I also believe it is important to leave some things in your field such as sassafras sprouts, some trees of varying types raspberry, etc... these all have loads of good things in them.

So, I said all that to say this... there are lots of things that if enough is eaten will be unhealthy, but in most cases, if you have a variety in your pasture your pretty safe. Always leave some variety, no body likes to eat the same thing everyday and it doesn't hurt to nibble something once in a while.

Balance. Don't discount natural instinct completely. Nature has been perfecting it for millions of years, don't think you have outsmarted it in less than 100.

Rick Moser
Pennsylvania Keystone Alpaca's
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1475 Posts

Posted - 06/07/2007 :  07:44:47 AM  Show Profile  Visit janechristie's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Hi Rick,

While I agree with you that there are many toxic plants, and our alpacas generally avoid them because they appear to have a bad taste, animals have been killed by eating as little as 2oz of wilted cherry leaves, as explained in the reference below, and our local vet has stressed that these trees pose a serious risk to livestock:

Indiana Plants Poisonous to Livestock and Pets
Cooperative Extension Service, Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN 47907

Rebecca J. Goetz, writer, extension assistant
Thomas N. Jordan, extension weed scientist
John W. McCain, extension weed scientist
Nancy Y. Su, assistant

Sources and Additional Readings
Botanical texts: Kingsbury, Eshleman, Meuncher, Arena, and Radcliff
Veterinary texts: The Merck Veterinary Manual, poisonous plant booklets for IL, KY and NY, Current Veterinary Therapy for Small
Animals, Large Animals and Equine

Veterinary Journals: Veterinary Medicine, Veterinary Record, J. of the American Veterinary Medical Association, J. of Range Management, Modern Veterinary Practice, Compendium for the Practicing Veterinarian, J. of the American Animal Hospital Association, and others


Prunus serotina

(rose family)


ANIMALS AFFECTED: All animals may be affected. Ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats, deer) are more at risk than monogastric animals (dogs, cats, pigs, horses) and birds.

DANGEROUS PARTS OF PLANT: Damaged leaves pose the greatest risk. All parts are potentially toxic.

CLASS OF SIGNS: Anxiety, breathing problems, staggering, convulsions, collapse, death (which may be sudden).

PLANT DESCRIPTION: This cherry may grow as a tree or shrub. Bark of young branches and twigs is scaly and reddish-brown with prominent cross-marks ("lenticels"). Leaves (fig. 46) are alternate, simple, elliptic-pointed, leathery in texture, and finely toothed on the margins. Flowers are showy, fragrant, and white, hang in drooping clusters, and produce dark-red to black cherry fruits (fig. 46A). The wild black cherry commonly grows in fence rows, roadside thickets, and rich open woods.

SIGNS: Black cherry contains cyanogenic precursors that release cyanide whenever the leaves are damaged (frost, trampling, drought, wilting, blown down from the tree during storms). Most animals can consume small amounts of healthy leaves, bark and fruit safely; however when hungry animals consume large amounts of fresh leaves or small amounts of damaged leaves (as little as 2 ounces), clinical cases of poisoning will occur, and many animals may die. This is especially true if there is no other forage for the animals to consume, or in the case of pets, when confined and/or bored, the chances for toxic levels of ingestion can occur.

Healthy cherry leaves contain prunasin, a cyanide precursor that in itself is non-toxic. When the leaves are damaged, the prunasin molecule is split and free cyanide (also called prussic acid or hydrocyanic acid) is liberated. Many plants, especially those in the rose family, have the potential to produce toxic levels of cyanide under certain conditions. Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) is also toxic. There are reports of peach sprouts, leaves, and pits poisoning sows. Apricot pits and apple seeds are toxic as well. Arrowgrass (Triglochin maritima) contains a cyanogenic glycoside and has caused poisoning in livestock. Johnsongrass, discussed earlier, has a similar toxicity.

PREVENTION: Do not allow animals to have access to damaged cherry leaves, especially if they are hungry and there is no other forage available. Do not place fallen branches or tree trimmings where animals can graze them. Exercise caution with animals on pasture after storms, during droughts or after a frost since these conditions will increase the chances of toxic levels of ingestion. For pets, do not house or confine animals in the vicinity of cherry, since boredom will increase the likelihood that the plant will be eaten. For most species of cherry, the fruit is safe for consumption. It is the leaves and bark which pose the greatest risk.

Ph: (804)-784-4837 Fax: (804)-784-4839

Edited by - janechristie on 06/07/2007 07:48:41 AM
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190 Posts

Posted - 06/07/2007 :  08:00:25 AM  Show Profile  Visit RickMoser's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Thanks Jane, I agree completely that wilted or damaged leaves can cause problems but seriously doubt 2oz would kill a full anything over 100 lbs. I have however seen healthy leaves eaten as well as bark with absolutely no effect at all. Another tree is the locust, black and otherwise.. often reported as extremely poisonous but I have seen livestock, including alpacas, clear young branches and bark... without trouble.

The plant I personally watch out for are hemlock. Keeping a pasture cut down in the spring will reduce the chance of eating the leaves when they are most toxic, but the root is the one that kills.

I guess its better safe than sorry, I just think some reports tend to make things sound worse than they are.

Rick Moser
Pennsylvania Keystone Alpaca's
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1475 Posts

Posted - 06/07/2007 :  08:17:52 AM  Show Profile  Visit janechristie's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Hi Rick,

What you don't know with these references is whether the animal killed was a 100lb sheep or a 2000lb bull, so it is a little difficult to assess, but yes, my first message referenced wilted cherry leaves, not fresh leaves! Either way, cherry trees and wild azaleas are the ones our vet cautions us about in the pasture, as she has experienced poisonings in our area with them both.

We have identified a number of poisonous plants in our pasture, (black nightshade, carolina nightshade, Jimson weed, Johnson grass and others) and first learned to identify them because they were the only ones left uneaten. We also have many white oak trees in our pastures, and oaks can also cause poisoning, but it is the young green leaves and the immature acorns that you have to watch out for, so we try to cut off low hanging branches and be especially careful when storms in the Spring and Fall blow tree debris into the fields. What we would not do is go out and cut down our beautiful, mature oak trees which provide much needed shade; because the situation can be managed and the risk of heat stress is greater than the risk of poisoning!

We also believe we have encountered the fungus poisoning you mentioned, in a young juvenile, after a period of very heavy rain when mushrooms popped up everywhere. She pooped hot liquid, with no elevated temp., for 24 hours, and we treated her with UAA gel, which is pretty much activated carbon in an arugulite clay base. She came right within 48 hours, but it wasn't pretty!

Some plants are definitely more of a concern than others, and crias, juveniles and greedies are at greater risk than others, as they are more likely to experiment with unknown plants.

Ph: (804)-784-4837 Fax: (804)-784-4839

Edited by - janechristie on 06/07/2007 08:22:55 AM
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190 Posts

Posted - 06/07/2007 :  08:30:12 AM  Show Profile  Visit RickMoser's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Yeah, mushrooms are real tricky. Used to pick them in the woods with my grandfather as a kid and loved to eat them but you have to know which ones are good. The bad ones are REAL bad and I wouldn't dare try to do it now.

I'd like more info on that treatment you gave your cria, that would probably come in hand for a lot of people as spores can pop up at the worse time, like in straw when it gets wet near your barns...

Good info to have on hand.

Rick Moser
Pennsylvania Keystone Alpaca's
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626 Posts

Posted - 06/07/2007 :  12:02:28 PM  Show Profile  Visit pinkertondan's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Hi ya'll,
Feel free to bombard us with as many questions as you want. "There are no dumb questions, just the the dummy that didn't ask them "

Good luck!


I love that quote. That's really great. Can I borrow it??
This is quite an interesting topic.

The Pinkerton Tribe
Rockford Bay Ranch
14701 S. Heritage Dr.
Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814
Email me! I would love
to hear from you!
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3 Posts

Posted - 06/07/2007 :  12:39:53 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote

Please add white snakeroot to the list. I have horses (no alpaca yet)and my vet found this in my pasture. He said several horses have died from it, it is highly toxic. He said the only way it gets eliminated from the system is through milk, and it will kill the baby, or can kill a person who drinks the milk (one site said Abraham Lincoln's mother died from "milk fever"). Although most animals won't touch it, every once in a while one will develop a taste for it. It is highly toxic to cattle & sheep, so probably alpaca also. The edges of the leaves are serrated, the stems reddish, and it gets white flowers in August.

I live in Foristell, MO, just west of St. Louis, and it is common in this area.

Here's a link with more info:

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19 Posts

Posted - 06/07/2007 :  3:04:00 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
From what I've read so far I think my pasture is pretty safe. The only questionable things are 3 wild cherry trees. Whether the danger is over rated or not, for me it boils down to simple math. A quart of chainsaw gas = $1.50 and a little of my time, Alpaca = $10,000 - $20,000 or more multiplied by the size of the herd. Easy choice in my book. If I'm going to make an error one way or the other I think I'll risk wasting a little gas.

I know nothing but hope to improve. I'm here to learn.
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160 Posts

Posted - 06/07/2007 :  4:38:30 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I don't think it is over rated at all. I have seen first hand cherry poisoning in an alpaca. All I can say no more cherry trees they were cut down and burned. I never want to see that again.

Carrie Olson
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