Editor: I have seen vast areas of yellow buttercups in fields and on roadsides everywhere. I am very concerned because animals, especially horses, ponies and donkeys, eat them if they are covering the grass. They can be seriously poisoned.
Normally, the animals avoid them, but as with other toxic weeds, they may be grazed if other feed becomes scarce, with serious consequences.
Buttercups are found worldwide, especially in marshy fields and pastures. They have easily recognizable yellow, five-petaled flowers and deeply divided stem leaves.
Symptoms of buttercup poisoning include salivation, depression, blindness, bloodstained urine, diarrhea, nervousness and abdominal pain.
The acrid juice from the plant may also cause ulceration of the animal’s skin or lips. All buttercups should be removed from the horse’s diet and supportive care should be provided.
Other plants considered dangerous are hemlock, nightshade, hoary alyssum, St. John’s wort and milkweed.
They should be thoroughly removed. Check pastures regularly and make sure your horses are offered nutritionally balanced diet with lots of healthy forage to keep them occupied.
For more information about plants that are poisonous to livestock, go to www.weedscanada.ca.