En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Are Carolina Cherry Laurel seeds poisonous from Asheville NC

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

Tuesday - August 14, 2012

From: Asheville, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Poisonous Plants, Shrubs
Title: Are Carolina Cherry Laurel seeds poisonous from Asheville NC
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a Carolina cherry laurel in my back yard that is dropping berries into my vegetable garden beds. May be a silly question, but will the berries poison the plants (and me) when I eat them?

ANSWER:

From our webpage on Prunus caroliniana (Cherry laurel):

"Warning: The seeds, twigs, and leaves of all Prunus species contain hydrocyanic acid and should never be eaten. Leaves of Prunus caroliniana are particularly high in this toxin. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a person’s age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plant’s different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil."

Our understanding is that everything but the flesh of the berry which contains the seed is poisonous on that plant, including the seed. Apparently birds, who love this plant, can eat and digest the fruit and discharge the poisonous seed without harm, to themselves, at least.

And it certainly was not a silly question. There is no reason to believe the berries would poison the plants in the vegetable garden, but as the bird droppings with those seeds show up in your vegetable garden, they will begin to sprout and you will have undesirable weeds (the sprouting cherry laurel seeds) growing in that garden. Personally, we would discard the bush that is hanging over the garden and any others close enough to get the berries in it. Otherwise, you are tagged with the job of carefully removing the berries before they disintegrate and expose the poisonous seed to either sprout or be picked up by a child or pet. Another point, if the cherry laurel is close enough to be dropping berries into the dirt, it is probably shading your vegetables or competing with them for nutrients and moisture. And you don't want the equally poisonous leaves and twigs fallng on your garden, again, possibly to be "tasted" by a child or a pet.

 

From the Image Gallery


Cherry laurel
Prunus caroliniana

Cherry laurel
Prunus caroliniana

Cherry laurel
Prunus caroliniana

More Shrubs Questions

Will desert rose (Rosa stellata) survive in south Florida
July 30, 2008 - I have a mature desert rose and I wanted to plant it in the ground. I live in southwest Florida.I want to know will it survive and should I wait to plant it next year?
view the full question and answer

Specimen evergreen for sun in Central Texas
August 28, 2010 - I'm soliciting suggestions for a specimen plant for a new garden we're building. It will be planted in a 3' square raised (18") Limestone bed. It will be full sun, Western exposure, and relative...
view the full question and answer

Non-flowering Tecoma stans from Palm Coast FL
August 18, 2012 - I have an adult tecoma stans that flowered for a few days in the spring and has not flowered since. What can I do?
view the full question and answer

Leaves falling off a hibiscus twice a year in Woodland Hills CA
October 09, 2009 - I have 8 hibiscus bushes and only 1 of them loses its leaves twice a year. Why?
view the full question and answer

Evergreen for privacy screen in San Antonio
April 30, 2012 - I am looking to plant native fast-growing evergreens that will provide privacy (growing taller than our fence). We live in San Antonio and the Red Tip Photinia seems to be everywhere! I heard that t...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center