*The word ergot is from the old French argot - a cock's spur.

The second, or spasmodic type of the disease is described as follows by Pammel: "Tonic contractions of the flexor tendons of all the limbs, anaesthesia of the extremities, muscular trembling, general tetanic spasms, convulsions and delirium." In other cases Long states that fatigue and cold sweat are followed by paralysis of the tongue and muscles used in swallowing and later by general paralysis. In both types of the disease the heart's action is very slow, probably due to the stimulation of the vagus nerve.

Very large quantities of ergot produce acute ergotism. Dr. Winslow has investigated the symptoms in dogs, and states them as follows: "Vomiting, profuse salivation, dilation of the pupils, rapid breathing and frequent pulse. The animal cries out, has convulsive twitchings, staggering gait, paraplegia, intense thirst and coma, terminating in death."

in addition ergot must be held responsible for many cases of sporadic abortion, although this effect does not follow in the earlier stages of pregnancy as often as is supposed. The action of the drug in contracting the walls of the uterus is well known to physicians, however, and is made use of in obstetrical work.

In cases of poisoning, tannic acid should be administered to neutralize any ergot remaining in the aliment-tary tract. For what has been absorbed chloral hydrate and nitrous ether are the best physiological antidotes. Warm antiseptic dressings should be applied to parts threatened with gangrene. Sometimes amputation of gangrenous ears or tail is necessary.

The plant is a parasitic fungus belonging to the As-comycetes or sac-fungi, so-called, because they bear their spores in asci or sacs. Its threadlike hyphae feed on and replace the cells in the seed of the affected plant, forming a hard, compact mass known as the sclerotium, black on the surface and white or slightly purplish within. The hardness and light colour of the interior of the ergotized grain render it easily distinguishable from grains infected by smut or bunt, which have a dark granular appearance. The sclerotium is considerably longer than the uninfected grain, cylindrical or slightly angular, with pointed ends. The mass of hyphae composing it is concealed by globules of fat which must be dissolved out if the microscopic structure is to become evident.

This sclerotium is the wintering stage of the Claviceps. In the spring it does not grow into a young plant like the unaffected grain, since the germ has been destroyed by the fungus, but if it secures lodgment in a damp place, produces here and there small raised spots which develop into minute globular bodies with stalks. The round heads change from white to a pinkish colour as they ripen. Examined microscopically they are seen to be covered with pores each leading to a flask-shaped cavity in the body of the head. These cavities contain a number of asci. In each ascus are eight threadlike spores, the ascospores. These are discharged at the time when the host plant is in flower. Falling on the young ovary of the flower, the spore germinates producing fungous filaments (hyphae) which enter, feed upon, and displace the soft tissues, ultimately forming another sclerotium. Before hardening, however, the fungus passes through the Sphacelia stage, in which a sweetish liquid called honey-dew is secreted, and numerous small spores known as conidia are formed and cut off from the free ends of the hyphae. These are carried to other plants by insects attracted by the fluid, and so the Ergot is spread throughout the field, since each spore which reaches another young ovary may germinate and infect that grain.

Fig. 1.   Formation of ascospores in Ergot

Fig. 1. - Formation of ascospores in Ergot - Clariceps purpurea. Figures highly magnified. a Sclerotium bearing fruiting heads (stromata). b Section through fruiting head, showing flask-shaped perithecia. c Single perithecium showing asci. d Ascus with eight ascospores.

Rye is more often attacked than other cereals, and it is from this plant that the ergot used in medicine is obtained. Wheat is sometimes ergotized, however, and oats containing the fungus have been reported. In addition, this fungus, or possibly a closely related species having the same effects, is found on a large number of grasses of wide geographical distribution. The following are species affected:

Agropyron Smithii Rydb..........Western Wheat Grass

Agropyron repens (L.) Beauv................... Couch Grass

Hystrix Hystrix Millsp.........................Bottlebrush Grass

Elymv.s canadensis L...................................

Wild Rye

,,

robustus Scribn. & J. G. Sm.

,,

striatus Willd.....................................

,,

virginicus L..........................................

Fig. 2.   Heads of some grasses infected with Ergot

Fig. 2. - Heads of some grasses infected with Ergot - Claviceps purpurea; a Blue-joint Grass - Calamagrostis canadensis, b Timothy - Phleum pratense. c Western Wheat Grass - Agropyron Smithii. d Awned Wheat Grass - Agropyron Richardsoni.

e Rye - Secale cereale. f Wild Rye - Elymus diversiglumis

Phleum pratense L..........................................................Timothy

Poa pratensis L.....................................Kentucky Blue Grass

Poa annua L.......................................................Low Spear Grass

Calamagrostis canadensis (Michx.) Beauv.

Blue-joint Grass

Agrostis alba L......................................................................Red Top

Glyceria fluitans (L.) R. Br. Floating Manna Grass.

Meadows infested with Ergot should not be cut for hay or pastured after sclerotia have formed. By cutting early, while the grass is in flower, the spread of the disease can be checked. Wholesome hay will also be obtained by this procedure.