In the course of his investigations into mortality among Angora goats in the Willowmore district of the Cape Province, Steyn strongly suspected a plant, Psilocaulon sp., of being the cause. The plant from the farm was toxic for rabbits, but when grown at Onderstepoort, where the soil conditions are very different, it was non-toxic. The plant contained considerable quantities of oxalic acid, with smaller amounts of malic and tartaric acids, as well as a toxic principle to be described in a later paper and to which the authors attributed the deaths of the goats in the field. The authors discuss the interrelations between the organic acids and their physiological function in plants and conclude with a discussion on the toxicology of oxalic acid and the oxalates.
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