How toxic is choke cherry?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Lannie, Jun 26, 2007.

  1. Lannie

    Lannie Well-Known Member

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    We're going to be enlarging our pasture this summer, and there are several choke cherry trees just inside the new proposed fenceline. I know these are toxic, but to what degree? We have two horses and a cow that will be in this pasture. Should we cut the trees down? I don't know if they're even toxic to cattle and horses, all I've ever heard about was sheep, but I thought I'd ask, just in case.

    So should we get out the chainsaw, or is it nothing to worry about?

    ~Lannie
     
  2. Scrounger

    Scrounger Well-Known Member

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    I don't know about cattle and horses, but I DO know they make a EXCELLENT jelly....
     

  3. Pony

    Pony Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I eat chokecherries whenever I can get my hands on them! Not only do they make excellent jelly, they are also very good in wine!

    You may want to google your question about toxicity. Sadly, you're not close enough for me to offer to come over and pick them all for you. ;)

    Pony!
     
  4. Pony

    Pony Well-Known Member Supporter

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  5. Lannie

    Lannie Well-Known Member

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    I think you have to cook choke cherries (like to make jam) and then they're OK. But I'm not talking about the cherries. I'm talking about the leaves. That's the part the animals eat that I think causes respiratory paralysis (thus the name "choke" cherry). The birds take all the chokecherry fruits anyway, and they don't hurt them a bit.

    I'll just cut them down. I'd rather lose a few trees than one of my animals. I hate to cut a tree unnecessarily, but better safe than sorry, as they say.

    ~Lannie
     
  6. Lannie

    Lannie Well-Known Member

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    I just read the link and it says the flesh of the fruit isn't toxic, only the pit (and the leaves, twigs and bark). That would explain why my birdbath is full of chokecherry pits, wouldn't it? Smart birds. ;)

    ~Lannie
     
  7. chris30523

    chris30523 Well-Known Member

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    They are toxic if eaten ,but livestock will leave them alone unless they drop a branch or fall over. The leaves and twigs contain cyanide and for some reason are more appealing to livestock if they are dead and dying.
     
  8. Ed Norman

    Ed Norman Well-Known Member

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    Mmmm chokecherry pancake syrup.

    The wood makes a pretty good bow if you can find a straight enough piece.
     
  9. Ole Man Legrand

    Ole Man Legrand Well-Known Member

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    Here we have wild cherries, the birds eat them and poop the seeds out and every one sprouts and comes up. We cut all wild cherry trees down, The wilted leaves will kill a horse. we mark them in the summer and cut them in the winter. Jay
     
  10. FourDeuce

    FourDeuce Five of Seven Supporter

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    I have chokecherries and black cherries growing in my yard and the birds eat all the black cherries and leave all the chokecherries on the trees. The cherry leaves aren't usually a problem except when a branch breaks and the leaves dry, then they become toxic and dangerous.
     
  11. bill not in oh

    bill not in oh Well-Known Member

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    If you're indeed talking about wild cherry trees (I've never heard them referred to choke cherry) the leaves are mildly toxic when healthy, but when wilted are extremely toxic to most species - even goats! I cut them down as I find them.
     
  12. Lannie

    Lannie Well-Known Member

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    I don't think they're the same thing, Bill, but I'm not sure. I'm still going to cut them down. I have a very dear horse that has been my constant companion for 20 years now, and I'd hate to kill her through stupidity. She's the one that likes to browse tree leaves. There are plenty of other food sources for the birds around here, so they'll just have to do without their yearly choke-cherry feast. :rolleyes:

    Thanks guys, I appreciate the information.
     
  13. Michael W. Smith

    Michael W. Smith Well-Known Member

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    Choke cherry / wild cherry - all the same thing. The leaves, bark, etc is NOT toxic when green. The toxicity occurs if a branch breaks - when the leaves wilt - they are then toxic.

    I wouldn't cut them down. First of all, it would take quite a few wilted leaves for your horses or cows to eat before they became sick. Unless you have a windstorm come through that blows down a large branch, you don't have any worries.

    I have goats and I make it a habit of cutting the cherry suckers that pop up where I don't want them too. I might cut 4 or 5 branches at a time and feed them to my goats fresh. My goats eat the leaves, they eat the small branches, and they strip ALL of the bark off those branches. And I still have goats.

    So to recap, the only time they are toxic is when wilted. A small branch of wilted leaves won't kill a horse or cow or goat. But alot of wilted leaves would kill them.

    Don't bother cutting them down, but if a wind storm passes through, just make sure their aren't any large branches that fell, and if they did, either get it cut up and hauled out right away or keep the animals away IF that ever happens.
     
  14. poorboy

    poorboy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    only time they are toxic(leaves) is like already said when they first wilt. If you can shut your livestock away from em at frost they are no danger. My cows never got enough of em to be poisoned , though I remember it happening to someone elses' cows when the wind broke one over..:)
     
  15. bill not in oh

    bill not in oh Well-Known Member

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    You're right Lannie - they are not the same. Choke cherry is more of a shrub and wild cherry is a 40-50' tree (mature)

    From the Utah State University Extension:

    Chokecherry is widely regarded as an important wildlife food plant and provides habitat, watershed protection, and species diversity. Fruits, leaves, and twigs are utilized. Large mammals including bears, moose, coyotes, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, elk, and deer use chokecherry as browse. Chokecherry is also a food source for small mammals. The fruits are an important food for many birds. Cattle and domestic sheep also eat chokecherry, and because of its toxicity (see below), poisoning sometimes occurs. Livestock normally do not eat fatal quantities except when other forage is scarce.

    Poisoning is caused by toxic quantities of hydrocyanic acid in leaves, stems, and seeds. It is believed to be poisonous to all classes of livestock, and poisoning generally occurs when the plant is stressed from drought or freezing. For poisoning to be fatal, an animal must eat a toxic dose (0.25% of its bodyweight) in 30 minutes to 1 hour. Signs of poisoning include distress, blue coloring of the mouth, rapid breathing, salivation, muscle twitching, coma, and death.

    The fruits of chokecherry are used to make wines, syrups, jellies, and jams. The bark is sometimes used as a flavoring agent in cough syrup. American Indians used bark extract to cure diarrhea. The fruits were used to treat canker sores, cold sores, and added to pemmican. The Paiutes made a medicinal tea from the leaves and twigs to treat colds and rheumatism. The wood was used for arrows, bows, and pipe stems.
     
  16. Lannie

    Lannie Well-Known Member

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    Well, they're gone now. Normally, I wouldn't have really worried too much except for my old mare who's a leaf browser. It would be just like her to decide that chokecherry leaves tasted just fine. Right up until she dropped dead. I've got too much of my life invested in her to take a chance. I've lived more years with her than with any other creature, human or animal. We have plenty of other trees on the property that aren't toxic, so these 4 chokecherries won't really be missed (except maybe by the birds, but they'll just eat more of the chickens' food, so they won't starve! LOL!).

    ~Lannie
     
  17. bill not in oh

    bill not in oh Well-Known Member

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