Great Basin Naturalist

Article Title

Poisonous plants of Utah


A list of the major livestock-poisoning plants has been compiled for the state of Utah. Two hundred fifteen taxa representing 36 families, 119 genera, and 209 species occur within the state. Forty-one percent are from two families, the Asteraceae and the Fabaceae. The remaining families of major importance are: Poaceae, Ranunculaceae, Solanaceae, Chenopodiaceae, Brassicaceae, Ascelpiadaceae, Liliaceae, and Euphorbiaceae. Sixty-nine percent of the genera occur with a single species. Thirty-three percent of the taxa are introduced to the state. Most of the plants are insect pollinated; 57 percent are herbaceous perennials.

Most livestock poisoning occurs during the spring. This is due both to concentration of toxins in emerging vegetation and to the absence of more suitable forage on late winter and spring ranges. Green herbage is poisoning in about 80 percent of all taxa, seeds and fruits in about 15 percent, and the remaining 5 percent have toxic compounds confined to flower heads, sap, tubers, or roots. Disturbed or cultivated habitats and poorly managed range harbor the greatest diversity of poisonous plants. Wetlands contain fewer poisonous taxa than do xeric or mesic areas.

The predominating plant toxins are various alkaloids and glycosides. Sixteen percent of the plants have uncharacterized toxins. Cattle and sheep are more susceptible to poisoning than are horses, swine, or poultry.