Milkweed or Asclepias is a genus name over 200 species of herbaceous flowering plants in the family Asclepiadaceae, native to Africa, North and South America. They get their name from the milky substance (latex or cardenolides) they exude when you break it or damage their cells.
Milkweeds are toxic to insects, humans, and other animals since they have cardenolides, which are cardiac glycosides that occur naturally. However, some insects and butterflies do feed on them without suffering from any toxicity.
Furthermore, they have had a long traditional herbal medicinal value, especially in managing lung disease, wart removal, and as a butterfly weed. Can bunnies eat them or not, and are they safe or harmful.
Do rabbits eat milkweed?
The answer isn’t a direct yes or no. There are divide opinions. For instance, while The Healthy Pet Club lists milkweed as a poisonous plant, there is contrary evidence to show that they are not toxic and rabbits do eat them willingly.
Additionally, as Moarchjointventure.org notes, “deer and rabbits have been reported to eat milkweed leaves,” and Good Oak also mentions the same phenomenon and ads that most of the other animals will not browse on these plants.
A study Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed) notes that “adult rabbits readily ate milkweed spontaneously if presented in the cage as a supplementary food together with the lab-food, and that consumption of this plant has no instant, adverse effect.”
Even when bunny kittens were given didn’t show any sign of toxicity despite the plant being toxic to other animals like
Is it toxic?
Evidence shows that milkweeds are not toxic to rabbits and these animals are readily willing to eat them. However, there is a need for further studies to see if there may be no long-term effects on bunnies fed this plant.
Amongst animals, poisoning is frequently noted in sheep and cattle. Horses may occasionally suffer from poisoning too. There isn’t any incident of it occurring to bunnies.
Instead of insisting on milkweed, go for the many safe leafy greens. Common veggies and weeds like endive, escarole, romaine lettuce, mustard greens, collard greens, carrot tops, beet greens, watercress, spinach, arugula, pea plant, dandelion weeds, chickweed, spring greens, turnip greens, Chinese greens and so on.
Also, they can have herbs like parsley, thyme, oregano, chamomile, tarragon, sage, dill, or flowers like pansies, hibiscus, roses, pansies, and so on.