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Mr. Smarty Plants - Poisonous Trees

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Thursday - September 23, 2004

From: Edmond, OK
Region: Southwest
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: Poisonous Trees
Answered by: Stephen Brueggerhoff

QUESTION:

Are redbuds and catalpa trees poisonous?

ANSWER:

The southern catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides) is commonly used in the southwest as a fast growing ornamental tree. However, the research that I have committed alludes to the vegetative parts of the catalpa as being poisonous. According to my research, many members of the pea family (Fabaceae) have been found to contain lectins, a carbohydrate-binding protein that may affect the intestines & prevent absorption of nutrients. Some members of the pea family are more toxic than others, depending on the species. Scooter Cheatham, in his book "The useful wild plants of Texas, the Southeastern and Southwestern United States, the Southern Plains, and Northern Mexico", states that the immature seed-pods of redbud (Cercis canadensis) can be eaten raw, cooked or boiled with no adverse effects. Conclusion: since I am not an accredited nutritionist, I can only provide you with a bit of information to supplement your research. I recommend contacting your state native plant society & determine if there is a local interest for ethnobotanical uses of your regional flora, which should lead you to credible resources that can supplement your research.
 

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