Arum maculatum (lords-and-ladies, wake robin, arum). Related species: A.
italicum (Italian arum). A member of the plant family ARACEAE. Perennial plant
with rhizome, and long leaves shaped like arrowheads, which may be purple-spotted.
Pale green spathe and yellow-brown spadix, ripening to become covered with fleshy
red arils (berries), each containing a few seeds.
Animals most affected
Cattle, (sheep, horses, goats).
Due to its bitter taste, direct ingestion
of the plant is rare but does occur during periods of food shortage or drought. Poisoning
results from livestock feeding on the plant while grazing, or consumption of contaminated
Contains coniine-type alkaloids including
conicine, aroine and toxic saponins. The sap or juice is highly irritant. Toxic doses
are not known.
Highly irritant effect on the skin and the
If a large amount is ingested:
vomiting, severe diarrhoea (faeces are
yellow-green in colour and have an acidic odour), acute rectal spasms, colic;
trembling, ataxia, weakness in the hind
If a moderate amount has been ingested:
diarrhoea, trembling, moderate to severe
Generally good prognosis.
acute or chronic pervasive inflammation
of the digestive mucosae;
moderate to pronounced congestion of
organs (notably renal tissue);
fatty degeneration of the liver.
No antidote. Symptomatic care only:
At the start of summer and because of a continuing
drought, a herd of 60 nanny goats were moved to a low-lying pasture which was shaded
and close to a river. That evening all the animals in the goat-pen were well, but
the following morning a small goat died after a bout of severe diarrhoea and abdominal
pain; another animal presented with the same symptoms which abated following symptomatic
During the next 15 days, more goats became
affected (diarrhoea, often haemorrhagic, abdominal pain). Several goats recovered
spontaneously, others died having presented with neurological signs (convulsions,
mild opisthotonos). The symptoms abated when the animals were confined to the goat-pen.
A search of the field revealed cuckoo-pint plants, but which were devoid of berries,
an unusual occurrence as arum tends to remain fruit-bearing until the beginning of
autumn. There was also evidence of chewed berries in the same area. Analysis of ruminal
contents revealed several berries, confirming that arum was the cause of poisoning
and of the fatalities.