Fireweed Intoxication in Horses & Other Species

What is Fire weed?

This seemingly pretty plant is a weed that is toxic. This weed is found growing in paddocks, along roadsides and in drought ridden pastures. The fire weed plant is easily recognisable with its mid – green leaves on branched stems but its main characteristic is its yellow daisy like flowers, Each fireweed plant can produce up to 30,000 seeds per year. The seeds are attached to a pappus made up of silky white feathery hairs and are easily dispersed by wind, wandering animals and vehicles.

Why and How is it toxic?

Livestock will avoid consumption of the plant or flowers when other feed is available, but in heavily infested pastures especially with young plants it cannot be avoided. The fire weed in-flower is the most toxic. When ingested it can be toxic to the liver and neurological system eventually leading to death. People should also be aware that fireweed is also toxic to humans if ingested and be sure to wear gloves when removing this plant.

What are the signs of intoxication?

Generally horses and other livestock will have to consume a small amount over a long period of time or a large amount over a short period of time to have an effect. Some of the symptoms can be diarrhoea, temperature, aimless wandering, loss of condition, weight loss or no weight gain and no interest in eating or drinking. They may also show abnormal behaviour such as head pressing, convulsions or tremors and change in temperament. Although fire weed is toxic most cattle and horses will avoid consumption as long as the feed is available.