Silky lupine-Lupinus sericeus Pursh-Poisonous plant

Silky lupine

General poisoning notes:

Silky lupine (Lupinus sericeus) is a native herb of western Canada. This lupine has caused poisoning and death in cattle, goats, horses, and sheep. Sheep eat the plants more readily than do other animals and are therefore more commonly poisoned. Cattle also suffer from crooked calf disease, a teratogenic syndrome caused by maternal ingestion of certain lupines between day 40 and day 70 of gestation. The calves can suffer from arthrogryposis, scoliosis, and other deformities. Humans are also at risk from lupine toxins. In one case in California, a child was born with limb deformities. The family raised milk goats that had also given birth to kids with deformed limbs, and a dog gave birth to deformed pups. All had ingested the goat''s milk during pregnancy. Anagyrine in a local lupine species was believed to cause the problem. Tests showed that lactating goats that ingest lupine seeds pass anagyrine in the milk. Edible lupine seeds are being marketed in health food stores. In Edmonton (Smith 1987), a woman suffered mild dizziness and incoordination after ingesting the seeds. She did not follow specific instructions to soak and boil the seeds in several changes of water, which is necessary to remove the toxins.


The flowers of this lupine are blue or mostly blue, in dense, terminal racemes. Its stems are diffusely branched, vary in height from 1-2 ft., and are clumped together on a coarse, branching root crown. Leaves are palmately compound, and each narrow leaflet is covered with silky hairs.


Scientific Name: Lupinus sericeus Pursh
Vernacular name(s): silky lupine
Scientific family name: Leguminosae
Vernacular family name: pea

Geographic Information

Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon Territory.

Notes on Poisonous plant parts:

The teratogenic alkaloid anagyrine is highest in the seeds, pods, and young leaves. The quinolizidine alkaloids implicated in lupine poisoning and death are found mostly in the seeds and pods. Large quantities of the plant material must be ingested in a short time. The alkaloids remain after drying, so that hay containing sufficient quantities of lupine can be toxic (Kingsbury 1964, Keeler 1989).

Toxic parts:

Leaves, mature fruit, seeds, stems.

Notes on Toxic plant chemicals:

Silky lupine contains two major quinolizidine alkaloids, lupanine and sparteine. These alkaloids and their derivatives cause poisoning and death in livestock. This species also contains a teratogenic chemical, anagyrine, which causes birth deformities in calves after maternal ingestion of the plants between day 40 and day 70. Amounts of up to 6.84 g/kg have been measured, which exceeds the minimum of 1.44 g/kg required to cause crooked calf disease (Davis and Stout 1986, Keeler 1989). The LD-50 of lupanine by oral ingestion in rats is 1464 mg/kg. This alkaloid is rapidly cleared from the body (Petterson et al. 1987).

Toxic plant chemicals:


Chemical diagram(s) are courtesy of Ruth McDiarmid, Biochemistry Technician, Kamloops Range Station, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Kamploops, British Columbia, Canada.

Animals/Human Poisoning:

Note: When an animal is listed without additional information, the literature (as of 1993) contained no detailed explanation.


General symptoms of poisoning:

Arthrogryposis, breathing, labored, convulsions, palatoschisis, scoliosis, torticollis, trembling.
Notes on poisoning:
Cattle do not eat lupines as readily as sheep and therefore seldom ingest lethal quantities. Symptoms are similar to those of sheep (Kingsbury 1964).


General symptoms of poisoning:

Breathing, labored, convulsions, trembling.
Notes on poisoning:
Horses do not ingest lupines as readily as do sheep. Toxic symptoms therefore seldom appear in horses. Symptoms are similar to those seen in sheep (Kingsbury 1964).


General symptoms of poisoning:

Fizziness, incoordination.
Notes on poisoning:
Smith (1987) reports the case of a woman who complained of dizziness and incoordination after ingesting edible lupine seeds purchased in Edmonton. The women had not followed the cooking instructions, which required soaking and boiling the seeds in several changes of water. The toxic alkaloids are removed through several stages of cooking; the process must be continued until no bitterness is left. In lupine seeds a lethal dose of lupanine has been determined to be about 100 mg/kg. If not properly cooked, 10 g of seeds may liberate more than 100 mg of lupanine. Keeler (1989) discusses a possible link between ingesting goat''s milk and the occurrence of birth deformities in a baby. The goats may have been eating a lupine species that contained the teratogenic chemical anagyrine, which was passed through the woman when she drank goat''s milk during pregnancy.


General symptoms of poisoning:

Breathing, labored, coma, convulsions, death by asphyxiation, depression, dyspnea.
Notes on poisoning:
Symptoms of lupine ingestion in sheep include labored breathing, depression, coma (often with snoring), and death from asphyxiation. Tremors and convulsions may occur. The animal may butt other sheep or stand leaning against an object. Teeth grinding and frothing have been observed. Sheep consume lupine more readily than do other livestock and are therefore the major species susceptible to lupine toxicity. Ingesting seeds equal to 0.25-0.5% of body weight can cause poisoning (Keeler 1964).

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