39. STAR-OF-BETHLEHEM, SNOWDROP, NAP-AT-NOON
TOXICITY RATING: Moderate to low. While very toxic, exposure
is not commonly reported.
ANIMALS AFFECTED: Cattle, sheep, horses, and potentially any
DANGEROUS PARTS OF PLANT: All parts, especially bulbs.
CLASS OF SIGNS: Stomach and intestinal irritation, abdominal
pain, irregular heart rate, death (rarely).
PLANT DESCRIPTION: This perennial (fig. 39), a close relative
of wild garlic (but without the smell), reproduces mostly by clumps
of bulbs. The central flower stem grows 4 to 12 inches long.
The leaves are about as long as the stem and have a light green
midrib. Star-shaped flowers, six white petals with green stripes
on the back, appear in spring. Usually the tops die back after
flowering and before the fruit, a capsule, can be produced.
Originally introduced to Indiana as a garden plant, star-of-Bethlehem
has now gone wild along roadsides, in fields, and in woods, especially
in the southern and western parts of the state.
SIGNS: Star-of-Bethlehem contains cardiac glycosides in all parts
of the plant, with the bulbs containing a higher percentage of
the toxin. This is not a commonly reported toxicosis, but it
can be severe if encountered and if enough of the bulbs have been
consumed. The bulbs may become more readily accessible after
plowing, frost heaving or other such activity, thus increasing
the risk of toxicosis. The toxic component (and therefore the
toxic signs) are very similar to foxglove (Digitalis).
The first signs are stomach and intestinal irritation, which
is followed by abnormalities in the heart's rate and rhythm, and
this can progress to fatal cardiac arrythmias.
FIRST AID: If animals are observed eating Star-of-Bethlehem,
contact a veterinarian immediately, since evacuation of the gastrointestinal
tract may be attempted to remove the toxin. Beyond this, therapy
is symptomatic and supportive, often necessitating a veterinarian's
SAFETY IN PREPARED FEEDS: The toxin remains after the plant has
dried. Since the toxin is powerful, there is no level that can
be considered safe when feeding processed feeds containing Star-of-Bethlehem.
PREVENTION: Do not let animals graze Star-of-Bethlehem, and avoid
incorporating this plant into hay and other feeds. It would be
advisable to eliminate the plant from pastures, especially if
they grow in any significant numbers.