Gousiekte, a cardiac syndrome of ruminants in southern Africa, is caused by the ingestion of plants containing the polyamine pavettamine. All the six known gousiekte-causing plants are members of the Rubiaceae or coffee family and house endosymbiotic Burkholderia bacteria in their leaves. It was therefore hypothesized that these bacteria could be involved in the production of the toxin. The pavettamine level in the leaves of 82 taxa from 14 genera was determined. Included in the analyses were various nodulated and non-nodulated members of the Rubiaceae. This led to the discovery of other pavettamine producing Rubiaceae, namely Psychotria kirkii and Psychotria viridiflora. Our analysis showed that many plant species containing bacterial nodules in their leaves do not produce pavettamine. It is consequently unlikely that the endosymbiont alone can be accredited for the synthesis of the toxin. Until now the inconsistent toxicity of the gousiekte-causing plants have hindered studies that aimed at a better understanding of the disease. In vitro dedifferentiated plant cell cultures are a useful tool for the study of molecular processes. Plant callus cultures were obtained from pavettamine-positive species. Mass spectrometric analysis shows that these calli do not produce pavettamine but can produce common plant polyamines.