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[Erowid Note: This article was included in an archive Erowid assimilated in 1999 and we do not know the author, source, or date, although we assume it to be from 1993-1995.]

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Ranchers and scientists have long wondered why horses grazing a certain grass (Stipa robusta) in the southwest stumble around in a drunken stupor and then collapse into a state of unconsciousness for days.

Once bitten, twice shy. After the horses wake up, they never eat this "sleepy grass'' again.

Indiana University biologist Keith Clay has studied sleepy grass and found it to be infected with an unusual endophyte, a fungus that lives inside plant leaves. Alkaloids produced by the fungus are the knockout culprits (caffeine, nicotine, cocaine and morphine are other plant- produced alkaloids).

Clay found that the dominant alkaloid in sleepy grass is lysergic acid amide, a first cousin of LSD.

A report of Clay's study will appear in the Dec. 18 issue of the journal Natural Toxins.

Clay's discovery sheds light on a widespread, but unexplained, relationship between fungi and grasses.

Here, as in many other instances, plants and fungi are involved in a symbiotic relationship, Clay said. The grass provides a home and food for the fungus. The fungus pays room and board by turning the grass into an unattractive food source for hungry animals.

So in this case, "infection'' isn't such a bad thing -- it's what keeps both partners alive.

But for horses, the sleepy grass predator, eating this grass is almost poison. A 150-pound man would become sedated by ingesting but one milligram of the alkaloid.

But a 1,200-pound horse eats 11 pounds of grass daily. And if that fresh grass consists of sleepy grass, that means consuming 47 milligrams of lysergic acid amide, or nearly six times the per-pound amount that sedates man.

It's no wonder that after this knockout the horses choose somewhere else to graze.

Clay does not fear that this discovery will send hordes of people to New Mexico and Arizona seeking a buzz by chewing on some sleepy grass.

Lysergic acid amide is a sedative, not a hallucinogen like its cousin. [Erowid Note: Although the issue is slightly controversial, Erowid considers LSA to be a sedating psychedelic.]

And if the horses' subsequent aversion to the grass is any indication, the experience isn't a pleasant one.

Clay's sleepy grass research is merely the tip of the iceberg of his plants and fungi research. His current research involves the implications of this symbiotic relationship on agriculture and the synthesis of new pharmaceuticals.