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?

Share

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

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 Poisonous Plants Questions

Non-poisonous, non-allergenic plants for privacy fence
March 15, 2012 - I'm looking to put in some plants to create a privacy fence against one side of my property. I'd like a mix of plants that grow well together in order to create a diverse look. I need something ever...
view the full question and answer

Plants toxic to dogs
December 08, 2005 - Can you tell me where I can get information on plants poisonious to dogs? Deck and yard plants. Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Will Canada geese eat Asclepias tuberosa from Cape May Court, NJ
May 20, 2014 - Will Canada geese eat my butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)? I know this plant is deer resistant. I really want to plant some on sandy bank near pond in my back yard, but I fear the geese will ...
view the full question and answer

Pool-Side Plants for Miami
April 02, 2015 - I am looking for plants, along the line of ti plant cordyline features, to plant around my chlorinated pool area with full South Miami sun. We have a dog therefore they must be non-toxic plants. The...
view the full question and answer

Eliminating silverleaf nightshade from Albuquerque NM
June 07, 2014 - I have silverleaf nightshade in my yard and would like to eradicate it (yeah, I know, good luck!) or at least control it. Do you have any suggestions?
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center