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Maple Leaves

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Maple Leaves

Notes on poisoning: Prunus virginiana


General poisoning notes:

Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) is a native shrub or small tree found through most of Canada. Children have been poisoned and have died after ingesting large quantities of berries, which contain the seeds. All types of livestock can be poisoned by ingesting the plant material. Cattle and sheep have been poisoned by red chokecherry (Pardee 1847, Kingsbury 1964). Related species, including peach (Prunus persica) and apricot (Prunus armeniaca), have pits with enough toxin to cause poisoning and death in humans and animals.

References:

Kingsbury, J. M. 1964. Poisonous plants of the United States and Canada. Prentice-Hall Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J., USA. 626 pp.

Mulligan, G. A., Munro, D. B. 1981. The biology of Canadian weeds. 51. Prunus virginiana L. and P. serotina Ehrh. Can. J. Plant Sci., 61: 977-992.

Pardee, G. K. 1847. Case of poisoning by the wild cherry. West. Lancet, 6: 289-291.

Scimeca, J. M., Oehme, F. W. 1985. Postmortem guide to common poisonous plants of livestock. Vet. Hum. Toxicol., 27: 189-199.

Nomenclature:

Scientific Name: Prunus virginiana L.

Vernacular name(s): red chokecherry

Scientific family name: Rosaceae

Vernacular family name: rose

Go to ITIS*ca for more taxonomic information on: Prunus virginiana

References:

Agriculture Quebec. 1975. Noms des maladies des plantes du Canada/ Names of plant diseases in Canada. , Quebec City, Que., Canada. 288 pp.

Alex, J. F., Cayouette, R., Mulligan, G. A. 1980. Common and botanical names of weeds in Canada/Noms populaire et scientifiques des plantes nuisibles du Canada. Revised. Agric. Can. Publ., Ottawa, Ont., Canada. 132 pp.

Bailey, L. H., Bailey, E. Z. 1976. Hortus third. Revised. MacMillan, New York, N.Y., USA. 1290 pp.

Scoggan, H. J. 1978, 1979. The flora of Canada. Nat. Mus. Nat. Sci. (Ottawa) Publ. Bot. 7(1)-7(4). 1711 pp.

Van Wijk, H. L. 1911. A dictionary of plant names. Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, The Netherlands. 1444 pp.

Victorin, M. 1964. Flore Laurentienne. 2nd ed. Univ. Montreal, Montreal, Que., Canada. 952 pp.

Geographic Information

Alberta
British Columbia
Labrador
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Newfoundland
Nova Scotia
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Quebec
Saskatchewan

References:

Bailey, L. H., Bailey, E. Z. 1976. Hortus third. Revised. MacMillan, New York, N.Y., USA. 1290 pp.

Boivin, B. 1966, 1967. Énumération des plantes du Canada. Provencheria 6. Nat. Can. (Que.) 93: 253-274; 371-437; 583-646; 989-1063. 94: 131-157; 471-528; 625-655.

Image or illustration

Prunus virginiana:

Images: images.google.com

Notes on Poisonous plant parts:

At all stages of growth, leaves of red chokecherry contained quantities of prunasin that were well above the minimum 1.4% level required for acute poisoning. Twigs also contained levels of prunasin at or above the level required to cause acute poisoning. Twigs developed more toxin during dry years. The prunasin level of buds and flowers was above the minimum level as well (Majak et al. 1981).

Toxic parts:

leaves
seeds
twigs

References:

Majak, W., McDiarmid, R. E., Hall, J. W. 1981. The cyanide potential of Saskatoon serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) and chokecherry (Prunus virginiana). Can. J. Anim. Sci., 61: 681-686.

Notes on Toxic plant chemicals:

Two cyanogenetic glycosides, amygdalin and prunasin, are found in red chokecherry plant material. Levels of HCN at 143-243 mg have been found in 100 g of leaves. The higher amounts apply to wilted leaves. A lethal dose in cattle occurs after ingesting fresh leaves equivalent to about 0.25% of body weight (Kingsbury 1964, Cheek and Schull 1985).

Toxic plant chemicals:

amygdalin
Image of amygdalin

prunasin
Image of prunasin

Chemical diagram(s) are courtesy of Ruth McDiarmid, Biochemistry Technician, Kamloops Range Station, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Kamploops, British Columbia, Canada.

References:

Cheeke, P. R., Shull, L. R. 1985. Natural toxicants in feeds and poisonous plants. AVI Publishing Company, Inc., Westport, Conn., USA. 492 pp.

Kingsbury, J. M. 1964. Poisonous plants of the United States and Canada. Prentice-Hall Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J., USA. 626 pp.

Animals/Human Poisoning:

Note: When an animal is listed without additional information, the literature (as of 1993) contained no detailed explanation.

Cattle

General symptoms of poisoning:

agitation
coma
convulsions
death by asphyxiation
dyspnea
gait, staggering

Notes on poisoning:

Experimental work on cattle showed that fresh leaves consumed at a rate equivalent to 0.25% of an animal''s body weight constitute a lethal dose. Symptoms listed above are applicable to all types of animals. Postmortem findings usually show bright red blood and congested internal organs (Kingsbury 1964, Scimeca and Oehme 1985).

References:

Kingsbury, J. M. 1964. Poisonous plants of the United States and Canada. Prentice-Hall Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J., USA. 626 pp.

Scimeca, J. M., Oehme, F. W. 1985. Postmortem guide to common poisonous plants of livestock. Vet. Hum. Toxicol., 27: 189-199.

Humans

General symptoms of poisoning:

abdominal pains
babinski reflex
coma
convulsions
cyanosis
death by asphyxiation
vomiting

Notes on poisoning:

Ingesting large quantities of red chokecherry fruits, without removing the seeds, has caused illness and death in children. The onset of symptoms is usually sudden and includes abdominal pain, vomiting, convulsions, inability to speak, labored breathing, coma, and death from asphyxiation. The blood is initially bright red because cell respiration is interrupted (Pardee 1847, Kingsbury 1964).

References:

Kingsbury, J. M. 1964. Poisonous plants of the United States and Canada. Prentice-Hall Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J., USA. 626 pp.

Pardee, G. K. 1847. Case of poisoning by the wild cherry. West. Lancet, 6: 289-291.

Sheep

General symptoms of poisoning:

coma
convulsions
death by asphyxiation
dyspnea
paralysis

Notes on poisoning:

See additional information under cattle.

References:

Kingsbury, J. M. 1964. Poisonous plants of the United States and Canada. Prentice-Hall Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J., USA. 626 pp.

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Date modified: 2009-09-01