Monday, October 4, 2010

Really not fair

After reading the blog entry from last week on Red mowing my front bed for me, one of my three blog readers asked me why I would get out the weed whacker and chop down the grass, instead of letting Red continue to munch. She pointed out that it would be much more environmentally friendly - Red would get a tasty snack and I could save electricity or gas by not running my weed whacker.

Johnson grass.

The answer is simple - the stuff that Red was eating is Johnson grass. It's toxic to horses, because of the potentially high levels of cyanide in it. Purdue has a good web page on the stuff.

As you can see, we've got quite a lot of the stuff growing in the front flower bed. Maybe this is a hint that I need to plant FLOWERS in the flower bed...

While I realize that it's probably relatively safe for the horses to eat the mature grasses, I'd just as soon not take any chances. We've got plenty of good hay and non-toxic grasses for the boys to eat. However, as my friend pointed out, it's really just not fair that a grass exists that's toxic to horses! Red wholeheartedly agrees.


  1. It's toxic, really? I'd always let my guys graze it when we were out on trail rides. I do know it's an enormous pest - you need a machete, not a weed whacker!

  2. Alas, yes it really is toxic. Purdue's web site says, "The toxic signs resulting from ingestion of Johnsongrass are due to the presence of cyanide in the leaves and stems... The young shoots are the most dangerous, and when wilted, trampled, herbicide treated or frost damaged, a great deal of free cyanide is liberated in the leaves."

    Granted, they also say that "In normal, healthy Johnsongrass plants, the levels of free cyanide are low, and the plant can be consumed safely." However, there is plenty of other food available for the boys, so I'd just as soon not take the chance!

  3. So unfair! Up here in Ohio we have a number of poisonous plants and wildflowers that are toxic to horses. The big one is holly berries. Even harmless fescue can cause problems for pregnant mares.

  4. Patricia, I hear you! We have LOTS of different nightshades down here, and the big ornamental that everyone plants that is toxic to horses is Lantana. You have to be so careful!

    One of the plants you'd think Red would be smart enough to stay away from is prickly pear cactus - it's not poisonous, but it sure has a lot of thorns! Apparently he has a taste for it, and would nibble on it where we used to board our horses. I actually have a pair of tweezers in my grooming kit just for picking cactus spines out of Red's nose!