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 Shrubs Questions

Reason for decline of Morella cerifera (wax myrtle) in Virginia
March 30, 2007 - We have Wax Myrtle bushes in our back yard. They were about 2 feet tall when planted 2 years ago and now are about 7-8 feet tall. The leaves have turned brown and are dropping essentially denuding the...
view the full question and answer

Pruning of non-native Senna bicapsularis from Ocean Springs MS
April 04, 2013 - I have 4 Senna plants (cassia bicapsularis) that I planted late last spring. They about 3-4 feet tall but are very gangly with leaves at or near the tips only. How should I prune them to encourage g...
view the full question and answer

Trees and other plants for privacy along lake shoreline
March 09, 2013 - We are purchasing a new home that has a 2 acre lake. We would like to add some plants/trees for privacy around the shore line. Can you suggest something that would fill in nicely and is strong enoug...
view the full question and answer

Frost damage to native plants in Austin
December 19, 2011 - Hello, We bought a number of native plants at this fall's WFC sale and planted them. The recent frost seems to have defoliated our pitcher sage, beautyberry, butterflyweed, and flame acanthus plan...
view the full question and answer

Need plants to replace cedars on a 40 degree slope in Boerne, TX.
August 28, 2012 - My backyard is a roughly 40 degree slope that is covered with cedars. The slope is basically all rock, what can I grow here to replace the cedar which drink too much water. I would still like the area...
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