Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum L.)
| Description | Distribution | Conditions of poisoning | Control | Toxic principle | Clinical signs | References
Mayapple is a perennial herb of the Barberry family. Leaves are umbrella-shaped and are about 8 inches wide with 5-9 lobes. Plants that have a single leaf do not flower, while those with two leaves develop a single flower in the axil of the leaf stalks. The flower appears at the end of the downward-curved flower stalk about 1 inch long. The flower, with 6 or more white petals and about 1.5-2 inches across, blooms in April to May, and is eventually replaced by a green ovoid fruit. The plant withers away by mid-summer.
Although the creeping, fleshy rhizome has been used to prepare medicine commercially, it is poisonous by contact. The green leaves and unripened fruit are poisonous but the fruit becomes edible as it ripens and turns greenish-yellow in color.
Mayapple is found throughout the eastern and midwestern states of the U.S., from New York to Georgia and as far west as eastern Kansas and northeastern Oklahoma. Mayapple grows in colonies in damp meadows, woodlands, pastures, and along roadsides, and is a familiar spring woodland plant in all counties of Illinois.
Poisoning of livestock occurs primarily in the spring, but the plant is usually avoided and seldom eaten in harmful amounts by livestock. The root is the most toxic part and handling of it may cause dermatitis or other skin problems in humans.
The toxic principles include the bitter resinous substance, podophyllin, which is extractable with alcohol and precipitated in water. Podophyllin is actually a mixture of at least 16 physiologically active compounds, which are divisible into 2 groups, the lignans and flavonols. One of the active lignans is podophyllotoxin.
General signs include purgation, catharsis, and other signs referable to gastroenteritis.
Affected cattle may show the following signs: hypersalivation, anorexia, lacrimation, diarrhea, and excitation which lasts about 1 day. The muzzle and intermandibular area as well as the eyelids may become swollen.
When swine consume mayapple shoots or leaves, death may occur after few signs.
Experimental studies with a podophyllotoxin from a plant in the same family, also termed mayapple, show evidence of degenerative changes in the liver, intestine, testis and pancreas in orally exposed animals.
Mayapple entry in Wikipedia
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