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What do you know about Poisonous Plants?

As the weather is getting better all the different plants start to grow and it is a good idea to get out and about in your paddocks and see what is ‘springing’ up!  Here are some of the poisonous plants to look out for.

Sycamore Trees.

Otherwise, know at the Acer or pseudoplatanus poses a high risk for the acute muscle disease atypical myopathy (AM).  The broadleaf deciduous tree which can which can be very colourful in autumn can shed helicopter-like seeds and these spring up into tall seeding plants.

Acer or Sycamore Tree

All parts of the sycamore are dangerous to eat with the highest risk from the seeds and the seedlings.  A toxin called hypoglycin A causes a breakdown in muscles, notably the muscles linked to cardiac, respiratory and renal failure.

Prevention is better than treatment and once the signs are showing. Early treatment of AM lessens the already very slim chances of survival. Look for signs of mild to moderate colic, depression, reluctance to move, weakness and dark urine.

Wherever possible avoid pastures surrounded by acres in autumn and early winter and if necessary supplement if grazing is sparse.  Pull up any seedlings in spring, collect and burn any seeds in autumn.


Oak trees shed acorns in Autumn and in some years you can get a bigger crop. Look out for shinny pods amount fallen leaves.  When horses eat the pods the tannins inside the pods are broken down into toxic elements.  These bind to proteins and cause damage to the gut wall and kidneys and cause diarrhea and colic. You will find that some horses are keener to eat them than others.


Severe illness can occur in less than 12 hours, with death within another 12 – 24 hours,  There is no specific treatment so speed is of the necessity if you suspect acorn toxicity.  Intensive treatment will save some horses, although if there is blood in a horse’s poo it is usually too late.

Make sure you prevent a horse from grazing whilst you remove the acorns from the pasture.


Leafy clumps known as rosettes will appear in spring at ground level, then grow into taller plants up to 2 meters in height over the summer and produce clusters of daisy-like yellow flowers. It is more difficult to identify in hay when dried, so it is a good idea to pull up all plants before making hay and use gloves as it is an irritant.



Most horses dislike the bitter taste and one-off exposure is unlikely to have an effect, but long-term exposure to dry ragwort in hay as toxins can be active and cause liver damage in the long term.

Signs of liver damage are subtle but can cause weight loss or diarrhoea. With supportive treatment, certain cases can recover liver function.

Dig up plants and their roots and search ‘ragwort’ online at to find information about safe removal and disposal.

We will be covering other poisonous plants in our next blog, so keep an eye out next week.  If you have enjoyed reading this please feel free to go to our Facebook page Sam Goss Coaching and like our page to stay up to date with what is going on.  Thank you.


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