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Thursday - June 25, 2009

From: Angola, IN
Region: Midwest
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: Poisonous cherries from trees in Angola, IN
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Are there any poisonous cherries from trees in Indiana?


There are six members of the genus Prunus native to Indiana that have "cherry" in their common names:

Prunus pensylvanica (pin cherry)

Prunus pensylvanica var. pensylvanica (pin cherry)

Prunus serotina var. serotina (black cherry)

Prunus serotina (black cherry)

Prunus virginiana (chokecherry)

Prunus virginiana var. virginiana (chokecherry)

All members of the Prunus genus, which includes peaches, pears, almonds, plums, cherries and chokecherries, have the same characteristics of having toxic parts.  All members of the genus bear the same warning about the ingestion of leaves, twigs or seeds of fruit. These parts of the plants contain cyanogenic glycoside or cyanogens that are highly toxic and may be fatal if eaten. Cyanogenic glycosides are changed into free cyanide either in plant material that has been damaged or in the gastrointestinal tracts of animals. It is most severe in ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats, deer) but is also very dangerous for animals with single stomachs (e.g., dogs, cats, horses, pigs). If you wish to treat the cherries as edible plants, you must be very careful about not letting the seeds be available for consumption, and keeping wilted leaves, twigs, etc. out of the reach of animals or children. 

The cherries that you would ordinarily purchase in cans for cooking are non-native to North America. The Prunus avium, or sweet cherry, and the Prunus cerasus, sour cherry, both from Asia and Europe, still share the same toxicity as other members of the genus. 



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