Ornithogalum umbellatum

(lily family)

TOXICITY RATING: Moderate to low. While very toxic, exposure is not commonly reported.

ANIMALS AFFECTED: Cattle, sheep, horses, and potentially any grazing animal.

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 care.

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.