The picture above shows typical blue lupine flowers and circular pattern of leaves. Although blue is the most common color, flowers may also be white, pink, yellow, or blue-and-white.
Lupine is found on open and wooded hillsides. Poisonous species are 1 to 3 feet tall. Leaves are composed of several leaflets, which radiate from a central point. It belongs to the pea family.
Sheep in the Western States are frequently poisoned by feeding on lupine.
Losses may be especially heavy when hungry sheep are trailed through lupine ranges in late summer. Sheep are sometimes poisoned by eating the plants that have been cut and dried.
The most poisonous species are silky lupine, tailcup lupine, velvet lupine, and silvery lupine. Some lupine species are not poison to livestock.
Poisonous species of lupine are dangerous from the time they start growth in the spring until they dry up in the fall. Most of them are especially dangerous during the seed stage in late summer. Pods and seeds retain their toxicity even after the plants have matured.
Where and When It Grows
Lupine grows on foothills and moutain ranges in sagebrush and aspen areas. The poisonous species listed above are perennials, although some lupines are annuals. Perennials usually start growth fairly early in the spring, flower in June, and form seeds in July and August.
Silky lupine grows in northern areas from Washington and Oregon east to South Dakota. Tailcup is found in Oregon, California, Idaho, Utah, Montana, and Wyoming.
Velvet is found in an intermountain region from Oregon to Wyoming.
Silvery occurs from North Dakota and Idaho south to Arizona and New Mexico.
How It Affects Livestock
The amount of lupine that will kill an animal varies with the species and stage of plant growth.
A sheep that is getting good forage may not be affected by occasionally eating a small amount of lupine (1/8 to 1/4 pound)-even if the lupine contains seed pods. But a sheep usually is poisoned if it eats 1/8 to 1/4 pound daily for 3 to 4 days.
Cattle frequently are poisoned by eating 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of the plant without other forage.
Smaller amounts are poisonous if cattle eat lupine daily for 3 to 7 days. Crooked legs and other congenital deformities occur in newborn calves if cows graze toxic species of the plant between the 40th and 70th days after breeding.
Signs of poisoning
1. Rough, dry hair coat
4. Reluctance to move about
5. Difficulty in breathing
6. Twitching leg muscles
7. Loss of all muscular control
8. Frothing of the mouth
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