EQUUS Pop Quiz - Toxic Plants

Have you landscaped your horse property with toxic foliage?
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Have you landscaped your horse property with toxic foliage?

This spring may inspire you to beautify your stable surroundings with a little landscaping. Be extra vigilant, however, in choosing the ornamental plants your herd will have access to. Some of the most attractive and common landscaping plants are highly toxic to horses. Which of the following ornamentals would be very poor choices for stable beautification?

a. oleander
b. yew
c. foxglove
d. impatiens

ANSWER: a, b, c. This trio of killers can fell a full-grown horse in only a munch or two. Oleander, an ornamental evergreen with white, red or pink flowers, is common in western states. It causes convulsions, diarrhea, colic, irregular heartbeat and death in horses. Yew, a plant so deadly that ingestion of only three or four ounces is fatal to horses, paralyzes the heart muscle. The yew has deep green foliage that may appeal to curious grazers and either red or yellow fruits resembling pitted olives. Foxglove, which grows cultivated or wild throughout much of North America, causes clinical signs similar to those of oleander poisoning though it's not quite so toxic. Do not plant or permit any of these species near horses, and if you identify suspicious plants, dig them out, root and branch, and dispose of them well away from all grazing animals. The shade-loving impatiens are not toxic to horses.

This Pop Quiz appeared in EQUUS 295.