En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - June 11, 2009

From: Saluda, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: How toxic are wild cherries for horses?
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I purchased a beautiful piece of heaven in the rural suburbs. I have three horses and grow my own hay. Unfortunately, I have just learned the woods surrounding my field is lined with Black Walnut, Wild Cherry, and Black Locust. I had the walnut trees cut down and one cherry, only to discover an entire tree line of cherry trees 25-30 feet high. We bale the hay in the early spring (May), and it seems to be considered weed free. How dangerous is it to have even a few dried cherry leaves in it? I thought they were toxic when fresh, but you say dried is even higher toxicity. I can have a lot of trees cut down or sell the property. I am now afraid to put them on the field or produce my own hay.


I can only tell you what the horse experts say.  Here is what the article "Poisonous Plants" by Willis Lamm of Trail Blazer Magazine says about choke cherry and wild cherry (Prunus):

"Chokecherries, growing in bushes up to 12 feet high, are popular for their jelly producing berries. They are common throughout the US, often found along roadsides or creek bottoms. Unfortunately the leaves, which are particularly toxic when stressed or wilted, as well as the bark from chokecherries and wild cherries are cyanide producing.

Death in horses can occur literally in minutes after the horse has ingested the leaves. The horse will appear to have trouble breathing, show flared nostrils and lose bowel and urinary control. Lack of coordination and trembling may also appear, along with agitation. A severely poisoned horse will drop to the ground, kick a few times, then die.

Poisoned horses can be saved, however usually veterinary help cannot arrive in time as the effects of cyanide poisoning progress rapidly."

The Poisonous Plants of Pennsylvania has more information about the chemicals responsible for Prunus spp. toxicity. Other toxic plant databases (Poisonous Plants of North Carolina, Cornell University Plants Poisonoous to Livestock, Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System) also list various Prunus spp. as poisonous.

Since the potential for poisoning does exist, I would recommend that you ask your veterinarian to visit your property to consult with you about whether you should remove all the cherry trees.



More Poisonous Plants Questions

Is Rosa rugosa poisonous?
August 04, 2007 - Are beach plums from a Rosa rogosa poisonous?
view the full question and answer

Is Lemon Cypress toxic?
August 15, 2012 - Is the Lemon Cypress toxic?
view the full question and answer

Is Penstemon cobaea poisonous
May 12, 2009 - Is Penstemon cobaea Nutt or Wild foxglove poisonous like real fox glove? It is on a playground and Im concerned that it may not be safe for children.
view the full question and answer

Plant ID from San Marcos TX
June 07, 2014 - My dogs love to eat the leaves of a certain little orange wildflower. It might be Wedelia or Texas creeping oxeye. Have you ever heard of this?
view the full question and answer

Getting rid of poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac
July 30, 2011 - How can I rid my yard of poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac? I have tried roundup, poison ivy roundup and even a clorox solution and nothing seems to kill it, I keep seeing it come up. Any help ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center