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Be cautious when disposing of plants – they can kill pets, livestock

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GALENA, Mo. — Some house plants and shrubs contain toxins in the leaves, stems or flowers and can be poisonous to pets and livestock, warns Tim Schnakenberg, agronomy specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

“Don’t throw pruned shrubs or dying house plants over the back fence or into an area that livestock, cats or dogs can reach. Be sure any trimmings or dying plants are burned or gotten rid of in a safe manner,” said Schnakenberg.

American yews are a popular conifer in landscaping, but toxic to dogs and cats. Use caution when disposing of trimmed branches around livestock and pets.

American yews are a popular conifer in landscaping, but toxic to dogs and cats. Use caution when disposing of trimmed branches around livestock and pets.

Homeowners need to be aware that there are several landscape plants that are poisonous to livestock. Probably the most toxic are Japanese yews.

Azalea, rhododendrons, black locust, boxwood, buckeye, elderberry, Virginia creeper, and wisteria can cause serious illness or death with sufficient amounts consumed by livestock.

“There have been several confirmed cases of cow deaths due to cows eating Japanese yew trimmings and in one case trimmings were buried in a ravine but sprouted and grew the next spring and killed several head of the farmer’s cattle,” said Schnakenberg.

The wilted leaves of cherry and plum, members of the prunus family, will give off cyanide gas when eaten and then that causes asphyxiation in ruminants.

Certain house plants can be toxic, especially to curious pets that like to chew on things. These pets may end up chewing and consuming parts of plants.

“House plants that can kill a pet if they are consumed are the Chinese evergreen, calla lily, dieffenbachia, croton, and elephant ear,” said Schnakenberg.

There are also several flowers that you would not want to throw over the fence to livestock. For example, Schnakenberg adds caladiums, cardinal flowers, and castor beans plants to the listen that will poison livestock.

“Southwest Missouri has a growing goat population and they will eat almost anything in front of them and that can be dangerous,” adds Schnakenberg. For example, rhubarb creates hypocalcaemia or a low calcium condition which in turn, will cause kidney failure in goats.”

For more information, contact Schnakenberg at the MU Extension Center in Stone County, (417) 357-6812.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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