Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Poisonous Plants : Cycas


Cycas is the only genus in the family Cycadaceae of about 95 species. 

The generic name ‘Cycas’ comes from Greek ‘Koikas’, which means “a kind of palm”, but they are not palms at all !

Cycas is native to the tropical regions of Old World.  It can be found in eastern Asia, south east Asia, eastern Africa, northern Australia, Polynesia, and Micronesia.


The best-known species are  Cycas revoluta, widely known as ‘King Sago’ and  Cycas rumphii, ‘Queen Sago ’.

Cycas are generally symmetrical, with a crown of shinny, light to dark green leaves. 
Trunk is about 20 – 40 cm in diameter, lengthens with age.  The trunk is very slow-growing. 

Cycas are very popular as ornamental plant.  However, there are reports that the plant is poisonous to animal if ingested.

Somehow, pets find the plant very palatable.  Basically, all parts of the plant are toxic.  The seeds, especially, contain the highest level of toxin cycasin.  Cycasin causes gastrointestinal irritation, and in high doses, leads to liver failure.  Other toxins include beta-methylamino L-alanine, a neurotoxic amino acid.

Clinical symptoms may include  vomiting, diarrhoea, weakness, seizures, liver failure, or hepototoxicity characterized by icterus, cirrhosis, and ascites.  The pet may appear bruised, have nose bleeds ( epistaxis ), blood in the stool ( melena ), bloody straining ( hematochezia ), and blood in the joints ( hemarthrosis ).

Even though Cycas are highly poisonous, starch extracted from it’s trunk is a less-common food source for some people of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.   The stem, root and seeds are grinded, and repeatedly washed to leach out the toxins, and then dried to produce a starch similar to palm sago.


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