Common Laburnum (Laburnum anagyroides)

Be aware that some plants in parks and gardens could be poisonous, especially for children. One of them is Common Laburnum. And did you know that in earlier times, the seeds and leaves of Laburnum were used as a psycho-pharmaceutical agent to treat excessive irritability, psychoneurotic illnesses, migraines, chronic arsenic poisoning and liver ailments?

Laburnum anagyroides from BHL

Laburnum is a robust shrub or small tree with smooth gray bark, reaching heights of up to seven meters. It blooms from April through May with profuse cascades of labiates yellow racemes. Pods are bean-like, colored brownish-gray. This angiosperm is also known as golden rain or golden chain. It originated in southern and southwestern Europe, but is frequently planted in parks and gardens as an ornamental shrub. Its hardy character also led to it frequently being planted around schools, and this was a frequent source of mass poisonings in children.

Photo of Laburnum anagyroides by Hermann Falkner from EOL

Laburnum contains poisonous cytosyne, which is present primarily in the flowers, seeds and roots. Most poisonings occur in children, from playing with pods and seeds. A fatal dose for children is three to four pods, or twelve to fifteen seeds of laburnum. Initial symptoms of poisoning appear thirty minutes to an hour after ingestion, and include burning mouth, nausea and vomiting. Subsequent symptoms are intense stomach and intestinal cramps, sweating, headaches and muscle spasms, up through circulatory failure. Fatal poisonings are manifested as whole-body paralysis with death from lung paralysis in one to several hours.

Laburnum anagyroides, this image is under CC-BY-SA of University of Vienna, Institute for Botany - Herbarium WU in Europeana

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