Beautiful landscapes often include eye-catching trees. You might select your trees because they create beautiful shade, offer strong seasonal interest or bear a fruit your family loves. In the long run, trees improve the value of your home, increasing resale value.

Even so, some of your cherished trees might contain compounds that when ingested can harm your family or pets. Learn which trees to look out for and how to protect your family and four-legged friends while still enjoying everything these trees bring to your landscape.

Understand the Basics

Learn what part of the tree is problematic and how much needs to be consumed to create a concern. Follow these basics to make your landscape safer for every member of your household:

  • Know the names of the trees on your property.
  • Research each tree to know potential issues it could create for people or pets.
  • Remove potential threats. If fallen fruit or leaves are an issue, keep them gathered.
  • Understand how much of a plant part must be consumed – relative to your child’s or pet’s size – to cause a problem. (For pets, the ill effects of a first-time feast are usually enough to keep them from snacking on the same thing twice.)

Apples

Apple & crabapple

All types of apple trees, including crabapples, can be toxic to dogs, cats and other mammals (including humans). Tree stems, leaves and seeds contain a chemical that’s metabolized into cyanide during digestion. In foliage, the chemical concentrates during autumn, making fallen leaves more dangerous than living ones. Apple seeds must be chewed for the toxin to be released. In most cases, small children, dogs or cats that consume apple seeds, twigs or leaves experience a mild case of gastrointestinal irritation.

Black Walnut

Black walnut

Dogs have recently been added to the watch list for this commonplace tree. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the danger lies in molds that grow on decomposing nuts. Dogs that eat these molds develop vomiting, diarrhea and possibly tremors and seizures. Typically, a well-fed dog leaves fallen nuts alone. But if your pooch develops a taste for walnuts or likes to play with them, rake and gather them regularly.

Cherries

Cherry & its relatives

Cherry relatives include apricot, plum, peach, chokecherry and other cherry types. Like apples, these trees produce chemicals that metabolize into cyanide. With cherries, the chemical occurs throughout the plant and is most concentrated in wilted or fallen leaves.

For small children and most pets, a stomachache results from eating a leaf or two. But if a large volume of leaves is consumed in relation to a small body, cyanide poisoning can occur. Symptoms include darkened gums and urine, breathing difficulties, weak pulse and seizures.

Holly

Holly

Both the spiny leaves and bright-red berries contain toxins that can harm your pets. Plants contain saponins and theobromine, the same compound that makes chocolate toxic for dogs and cats. If a pet munches this plant, it will likely develop a stomachache or diarrhea.

For small children, the danger enters if they pick and eat berries. If a young child consumes one or two berries, they may develop a tummy ache. Eating more leads to vomiting, diarrhea or even death.

Horse chestnut

Horse chestnut

Every part of horse chestnut contains saponins, chemicals that can depress the central nervous system. Avoid letting pets play with chestnut twigs or fruit. Keep young children from putting chestnuts in their mouths.

A child or animal usually experiences vomiting or diarrhea after eating horse chestnuts. In severe cases, pets may stagger, tremble or have trouble breathing. If your pet likes playing with the fallen nuts, gather them and keep them out of reach.

What To Do if Poisoning Occurs

Post poison control numbers in an easily visible spot: 1-800-222-1222 for children and adults; 1-800-213-6680 for the Pet Poison Helpline (a fee may apply).

When you call to report a poisoning, you’ll need to know:

  • The name of the plant consumed
  • The part of the plant consumed (leaf, berry, etc.)
  • How much of the plant was consumed
  • Approximate time the plant was consumed
  • Your child or pet’s age, weight and condition