Publication Date


Degree Program

Department of Agriculture

Degree Type

Master of Science


Black cherry (Prunus serotina L.) leaves have been known to be a source of hydrocyanic acid poisoning of cattle since the late 1800 "s. Results of early studies indicated that the black cherry was one of the most toxic of the cyanogenetic plants. An early idea which has persisted to the present has been that black cherry leaves must be wilted before they are toxic to cattle. Black cherry trees are found throughout the eastern United States and as far west as Arizona and North and South Dakota. In the spring of 1972, the author of the present study conducted a survey of County Agricultural Extension Agents in Kentucky to determine the distribution of black cherry trees in agricultural areas, and to evaluate the concern which cattle producers have about the threat of hydrocyanic acid poisoning from cherry trees. Survey questionnaires were returned by agents in 97 counties (Appendix A ). Some of the findings were: (1) black cherry trees are common occurrences in most counties; (2) several ruminant animals have died following the consumption of black cherry leaves, presumably from hydrocyanic acid poisoning; (3) approximately 83 percent of the respondents believed that black cherry leaves must be wilted before they are toxic; and (4) a majority of county agents indicated that their cattle producers either remove black cherry trees from pastures or check pasture areas after summer storms and remove any fallen cherry trees or branches. Objectives of the present study included: (1) to determine the levels of hydrocyanic acid potential (HCN-p) in black cherry leaves; (2) to determine whether there are HCN-p differences among black cherry trees; (3) to study the effect of aging of leaves on HCN-p; and (4) to ascertain the effect of wilting or drying of leaves on HCN-p.



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