Laburnum: Not so Dangerous After All

Laburnum is a native European tree belonging to the pea family. They blossom with beautiful yellow flowers that hang in racemes, earning it the name, Golden Chain Tree.Photo of laburnum tree

They are a popular tree in gardens and parks, especially as they can be trained to grow over pergolas and trellis to great effect. The wood is traditionally used in cabinet making as well as musical instruments, especially Great Highland bagpipes. Many species of butterfly and moth rely on laburnum as a food source during their larval stage.

However, this tree does have a dark side. Every part of it, bark, flowers, seeds and leaves are deadly poisonous. This is particularly worrisome as the seed pods that form when the flowers die, resemble pea pods.Photo of laburnum seeds This is mostly due to an alkaloid, cytisine. When ingested this causes vomitting, diarrhea, convulsions, coma and sometimes death. There have been anecdotal reports of kittens dying from using laburnum bark as a scratching post. There have fortunately been no recorded deaths in the UK this century from laburnum poisoning, so there is no need to chop your trees down, just tell your children not to eat “peas” from trees.

Indeed, it has proved impossible to find any hard evidence of laburnum killing people at all, outside of fiction, such as Daphne Du Maurier’s “My Cousin Rachel”. Perhaps the tree is just so foul tasting that nobody would be able to eat sufficient quantities to cause anything worse than a dash to the lavatory. So, sit back and enjoy the beauty of the laburnum tree and leave fiendish poisoning plots to the queens of melodrama

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9 thoughts on “Laburnum: Not so Dangerous After All

  1. Beautiful images – great information.
    Our end-of-garden den/fire-pit has a laburnum “roof”: a tree which overhangs from next door, gives privacy and not a little magic all year round.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. I remember my parents had a laburnum tree in their garden. It was beautiful and I was always picking the flowers and playing with the seed pods when I was a kid. Back then we didn’t know it was poisonous otherwise I’m sure my Dad would have cut it down. But I never came to any harm and now it is just one of those happy memories from childhood.

  3. Well that’s interesting to know. I also thought laburnum was very poisonous. Lovely photos šŸ™‚
    We had Oleander bushes in our garden when we moved here, which I did remove as my kids were very young and one of them put Everything in her mouth. Pity, as they grow well.

  4. Pingback: Laburnum Tree | rambling ratz

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