Poisonous Plants

We are often asked about poisonous plants in the garden that could pose a threat to both pets (animals) and people alike. A lot of plants look beautiful and harmless, but could actually be deadly if ingested.

Check out our list of poisonous plants here.

Check out this great article on Toxic Plants by UF/IFAS.


Weeds in natural areas can pose risks to animal health, especially to grazing species. But, animal owners and livestock managers who provide high quality feed, forage, or hay for good nutrition and performance, can keep their animals healthy and safe.

To prevent poisoning in your animals, provide proper feed and grazing, and identify and control poisonous plants in natural areas, pastures, and your own landscape.


Plants produce toxins as a defense against grazing. These toxins usually make the plants smell or taste bad, and animals generally avoid them.

But, young animals may eat these plants out of curiosity, and older animals may graze on these undesirable plants under the following conditions:

Desired forage is scarce.
Owners give them bad food or forage that contains poisonous plants.
Most poisonous plants will not kill an animal. Instead, animals will suffer from chronic toxicity, which is caused by repeat exposure over time. The common symptom seen in this type of poisoning is wasting (poor growth and low weight).

Some plants, however, will cause acute toxicity—one time, damaging exposure. Animals usually die soon after eating these plants. Luckily, this type of poisoning is rare.


Sometimes poisoning may not be immediately obvious, especially if you have not witnessed an animal grazing on a toxic plant. If you think your animal has been poisoned, look for the following symptoms:

• Standing alone
• Acting disoriented
• Holding head down
• Refusing feed
• Drinking large amounts of water
• Wasting
• Shaggy coat
• Contact your local Extension agent and veterinarian if you suspect your animal is poisoned.

Providing good grazing and food sources and having suitable fencing are the best ways to protect livestock and animals from toxic plants. Mowing weeds is also helpful, especially in the fall.

Remember that poisonous plants are not safe in hay—many toxic compounds do not break down during curing. If you use weedy hay, make sure you know what weeds are present.

For more questions about forage management, animal and livestock health, plant identification, and more, contact your local Extension agent.

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Phone Number: (888) 426-4435

Adapted and excerpted from:

D. Mudge, “Toxic Plants: Recent Farm Animal Poisonings” (650KB pdf), UF/IFAS Central Florida Livestock Agents’ Group (accessed 07/2014).

J. Ferrell, “Poisonous Plants in Pastures,” UF/IFAS Weed Extension (accessed 07/2014).

J. Ferrell, “Poisonous Plants—Are Your Animals at Risk?” (164KB pdf), Presentation, 2011 Florida Beef Cattle Short Course (accessed 07/2014).