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Poisonous Plants - Proceedings of the Third International Symposium.
Edited by L. F. James, R. F. Keeler, E. M. Bailey, Jr., P. R. Cheeke, M. P. Hegarty. Iowa State University Press, 2121 S. State Avenue, Ames, IA 50010. 1992. 661 pp. Cloth. $69.95. ISBN 0-8138-1241-0.

The greatest threat posed by poisonous plants is probably the economic burden they impose on livestock loss. In order to better understand the many problems associated with poisonous plants, three major international poisonous plant conferences have been held in the past decade. The most recent conference was held in Logan, Utah, in 1988. This volume is the Proceedings of that conference. Seventy-seven major presentations are included along with the text of twenty-six posters arranged into ten sections. Those sections are General Topics; Poisonous Plants of the World; Locoweeds, Swainsonine, and Legumes; Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids; Lupines, Phomopsins, and Thermopsis; Identification and Analyses; General Plant Studies; Rumen Bacteria, Mycotoxins, and Immunology; Toxins and Mechanisms of Intoxication; and Specific Plant Studies.

Herbal interests beg turning to the chapter on pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Here, eleven papers explore recent developments in understanding the role, extent and mechanisms of pyrrolizidine poisoning. A. R. Mattocks reviewed recent advances in pyrrolizidine research, including information on human sensitivity to pyrrolizidines, especially in children. He presented information on new, simple methods in the preparation of reactive pyrrolizidine derivatives which helps to facilitate experimental toxicological studies. New information on analysis and separation for higher levels of sensitivity were explained along with new methods for monitoring animals for pyrrolizidine exposure. In another paper, the same author revealed an experimental method supporting the hypothesis that metabolites formed in the liver by PAs are capable of reaching and damaging other organs or tissue, especially the lungs. A paper by F.R. Stermitz et al from Colorado State University showed that some hemiparasit ic genera in the figwort family, Castilleja (Indian paintbrush) and Pedicularis (lousewort), both genera historically used as folk medicines, are able to uptake PAs from PA-containing host plants. This symbiotic relationship causes what might be considered innocuous genera to become toxic.

Such is the detail presented in this volume. While the information contained herein is now five years old, much of the new data presented at that time is not incorporated into contemporary books on poisonous plants. This is an important volume for understanding the state of research on plant toxins, and their possible impact on animals, including humans. All involved in the research, development and purveying of biologically active plants should have access to this volume.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.