Arrowgrass (Triglochin maritima
) is a perennial, grass-like plant which is found mainly in coastal regions, salt marches, bogs, lakeshores, and wetlands. The green leaves of the plant contain two toxic cyanogenic glycosides, triglochinin and taxiphillin.
Young, rapidly growing plants generally have high levels of cyanide. The toxicity also increases during periods of drought. Once consumed, the toxin rapidly enters the blood stream and is transported throughout the body of the animal. Cyanide inhibits oxygen utilization by the cells, causing the bird to suffocate. Signs of cyanide poisoning can occur within 15 to 20 minutes. A cyanogenic glycoside content of 50 mg/100 g of green seaside arrow-grass is considered lethal, even if only 0.5% of body weight is ingested. If treatment is started early, it can be successful. Postmortem findings reveal bright red blood and the smell of bitter almonds in the stomach.