Butterweed- Liver Cirrhosis from a Pretty Flower

Butterweed. . . mmm, mmm- sounds yummy. The leaves are big, juicy and appear tasty. However, this plant provides a good lesson in regards to judging the edibility of a plant based upon its appearance. . .

If any Llama farmers and/or cattlemen have stumbled upon this article- consider the following warning from the Texas Toxic Plants website, regarding the beautiful Butterweed: These plants contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids that cause progressive liver cirrhosis. Consumption of large amounts of the plant can result in acute liver necrosis. However, in most instances, several months elapse between consumption and the appearance of clinical signs. Horses, cattle and llamas have died of liver cirrhosis after being on pastures containing butterweed. This plant seems to be particularly deadly to Llamas.

Although the leaves are prominent and succulent- most animals will typically avoid eating this plant because of the bitterness of the leaves. Unfortunately, livestock are known to resort to eating this plant during times of drought when most of the other foliage has withered or been consumed.

The scientific name for Butterweed is Senecio glabellus. Senecio is derived from the Latin word 'senex' which means 'old man' (which seems to refer to the white, cottony head of seeds produced by the plant.) Glabellus is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word 'grounde-swelge' which means 'ground swallower' (source).

Butterweed is usually found in wet, swampy places and along the banks of rivers and streams. It is commonly found from the Southeastern states and north to Canada in the heartland, and north to Maryland along the East coast of the United States. The photos of the Butterweed listed in this article were taken along the banks of Cypress Creek in North Alabama.


The Giraffe Head Tree said...

I wasn't familiar with this weed, Daniel. I AM familiar with all the weeds that are popping up in my yard, however. Thanks for the info.

Daniel Spurgeon said...

A weed, Debi? You called this beautiful wildflower a weed? :) I have a few in my yard as well- I haven't pulled them up yet. Once they lose their flowers- I probably will chop them down- but not dig them up. I don't exactly have bermuda grass to be worrying about. :)