Common Name
Nolina, bear grass,sacahuiste, bunch grass
Botanic Name
Nolina texana
Plant Family
Desert terrain
South western US and Mexico
Animals Affected
Sheep and goats
Toxic Principle
Sapogenins present espeially in the flowers and flower stalks induce the formation of crystalloid material in the gall bladder and bile ducts of animals that eat quatities of the plant. Obstruction of the bile ducts by the crstalloids result in bile accumulation and compounds such as the phodynamic compound phylloerythrin. The phylloerythrin accumulates in the animal's blood and fluoresces when exposed to ultra violet wavelenth light in sunlight. This kills the cells of the skin and photosensitization results.
Nolina species are not grasses but are members of the Agave family. Arising from a tough woody base, these desert perennials have long, simple, alternate, basally clustered, leathery leaves. The leaves may be spine tipped. Numerous creamy-white, flowers are produced on tall spikes (panicles). The fruits are capsules, each with 1-3, brown-black ,round seeds.
Weight loss
Remove animal from the Nolina. Recovery will depend on the extent and duration of the bile duct damage.
Integumentary System
Photosensitization. Swollen, reddened skin initially, especially of white skinned areas, or areas with little hair covering. The skin in these areas dies eventually, becomimg parchment-like and peels off.
Hepatic System
Severe jaundice or icterus. Cholecystitis.
Diagnostic Tests
Elevated liver enzymes (GGT, AST), bilirubin.
Photosensitization, icterus, and cholecystitis would be highly suggestive of Nolina toxicity especially if there was evidence the plant had been grazed by the affected animal(s).
Special Notes
Signs of Nolina poisoning would be very similar to that of Agave lecheguilla. Animals will generally not eat this course plant unless there are no other forages available.