Deadly leaves lurk in the Far North
FORGET about crocodiles and stingers, the Far North has laid claim to one of the country's silent killers and it's a tree.
The Cooktown ironwood, a native tree found in Dimbulah, Croydon and in the Gulf region, has been identified as one of Australia's most poisonous plant species in a new book by veterinarian toxicologist Dr Ross McKenzie.
Just a few leaves from the tree can kill a cow or horse in half an hour.
"There are old stories about bulls in the back of an open truck on the way to the market and they went past an overhanging branch and by the time they arrived they were all dead," Dr McKenzie told The Cairns Post.
In a book 30 years in the making, the retired veterinarian lecturer travelled across the country to uncover some of the hidden dangers lurking in our rainforests, paddocks and backyards.
He said while the Far North had its fair share of toxic plants, the Cooktown ironwood was the most devastating.
Its impact is greater than lantana, another plant species capable of poisoning cattle that costs the industry millions of dollars each year.
"The Cooktown ironwood is worse because it causes sudden death with such a low dose," he said.
"If you take lantana as a comparison, (the cow) would have to graze for quite some time and even then the effects don't show up for a couple of days and you can treat lantana poisoning and get the animals back to health."
The book, which took six years to write, also outlines some of the dangers to household pets, including onions, macadamia nuts and grapes.
He said a few kernels of macadamia nuts could make a dog severely ill and "scare the pants" off the owners, before recovering within 24 hours.
Australia's Poisonous Plants, Fungi and Cyanobacteria, published by CSIRO, is available now.
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Noxious stuff: Dr Ross McKenzie has written a book detailing Australia's poisonous, plants including the Cooktown ironwood.