Chokecherry bears masses of white flowers in long clusters in the spring. Small ripe cherries range in color from purple to black. Leaves are dark green and glossy. It is a perennial in the rose family.
Chokecherry may grow as a shrub about 4 feet high. It is found in thickets, along hillsides, and on canyon slopes.
They may reach a height of 20 feet. They are often found in thickets with other trees, such as aspens.
Western chokecherry and black chokecherry cause livestock poisoning in western states.
When draught and overgrazing strip the pastures and ranges of grass and other forage, livestock often eat leaves and twigs on the lower branches of the chokecherry trees. Animals become poisoned if they eat considerable quantities of the leaves and twigs in a short time.
Sheep are often affected by chokecherry poisoning; occasionally cattle are affected. Although most losses occur when feed is scarce, a few animals seem to prefer this plant to other forage. After they get water, hungry sheep are attracted to the plant. Cattle sometimes are poisoned by eating leaves on branches trimmed from cultivated chokecherry trees.
The toxic substance in chokecherry-hydrocyanic acid- (sometimes called prussic acid)- is found principally in the leaves. Leaves become less toxic as the growing season advances.
Chokecherry and arrowgrass cause the same type of poisoning because they both contain hydrocyanic acid.
Where and When It Grows
The plant grows where moisture is plentiful. It is found in thickets on hillsides and cnyon slopes. It appears as a shrub or small tree aong willows, poplars, and alders that grow along mountain straems. Chokecherry begins growing early in the spring. Its growth is slower at high elevations.
How It Affects Livestock
There is usually enough hydrocyanic acid in 2 to 4 ounces of green chokecherry leaves to kill a 100-pound sheep. Wilted leaves, as well as fresh leaves, are poisonous.
For chokecherry to be fatal, a animal must eat a toxic dose in a relatively short period-30 minutes to an hour. Hydrocyanic acid inhibits body cells from the normal process of taking oxygen from the blood. This deficiency of oxygen affects all the body organs and causes respiratory failure. Signs of poisong come on rapidly, and death may follow within a few minutes.
Signs Of Poisoning
2. Abnormal breathing, either very rapid or slow and deep.
3. Trembling or jerking muscles
4. Blue coloration of the lining of the mouth
5. Spasms or convulsions continuing at short intervals until respiratory failure causes death.
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