Toxic Parts:
cyanogenic glycosides
Flower Color:
  • flower color
woodlands, waterside, ornamental

Time of Greatest Risk


Geographical Distribution

Black cherry distribution - United States

Related Species

Black Cherry

Prunus serotina

Wild Black Cherry, Rum Cherry, Mountain Black Cherry
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Black cherry (Prunus serotina) is a tree of the Rosaceae family that is native to North America, Mexico and Central America. P. serotina is one of the largest of the cherry trees with a narrow-columnar to rounded crown. In the spring it produces slender pendulous clusters of white fragrant flowers. Its fruits are drooping clusters of small red cherries that turn dark purple black as they ripen in late summer. The leaves are narrow oblong-ovate to lanceolate glossy green leaves with acuminate tips and serrate margins. The leaves turn varying shades of yellow and red in the autumn.

Black Cherry Toxic Components

Being a member of the Prunus family, Black cherry contains varying amounts of cyanogenic glycosides---which convert to cyanide (prussic acid) and cause cyanide poisoning when plant parts are chewed, crushed, trampled, or grinded. Cyanide is a highly toxic poison, which is quickly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract into the bloodstream. Once in the blood, it inhibits the blood cells from delivering oxygen to tissue cells causing the horse's blood to become supersaturated with oxygen and appear bright red. Depending on how much cyanide is ingested, horses may develop signs of acute poisoning or chronic poisoning. The toxin is found predominately in the leaves and seeds of this plant.

Additionally, the black cherry tree is known for attracting eastern tent caterpillars, which cause mare reproductive loss syndrome in pregnant mares, resulting in abortions and stillbirths of foals.