Sheep warning on rhododendrons

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sheep seeking greenery in the recent snow have been poisoned after feeding around rhododendrons.

Scottish Agricultural College’s (SAC) Brian Hosie said: “Sheep will usually avoid rhododendron if other sources of food are available, but in winter it is not unusual for sheep to break into gardens and woodland or nibble on green leaves as the heavy snow bends rhododendron branches within reach.

“SAC disease surveillance centres have confirmed several cases of poisoning since the snow storms began. In most cases little can be done.”

Rhododendrons contain a poison which slows the heart and lowers blood pressure. Symptoms include drooling, vomiting, pain and distress and sheep will stagger and collapse before dying. Other related plants, such as azalea and pieris, are also toxic, as is yew.

Rhododendrons also poison cattle, horses and people.