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Due to its snow-white berries, the snowberry is one of the most popular ornamental trees in this country and is often planted in your own garden or park. The honeysuckle family (bot. Caprifoliaceae) is also known as the firecracker, alluding to the sound the berries make when they are crushed between your fingers. Since the fruits remain on the bush until the cold season, many people ask themselves the question: are they poisonous to humans and animals?
the snowberries (bot. Symphoricarpos), in Europe especially the Ordinary Snowberry (bot. Symphoricarpos albus), are classified as slightly toxic to humans due to their ingredients. The reason for this are the components of the plant, most of which are concentrated in the snow-white berries, which ripen from July to October and can easily be picked by hand. In order to explain the toxicity of the plant in more detail, the ingredients must be considered.Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus
at saponins are sugar alkaloids within the group of triterpenes. Characteristic of these substances are the foaming effect when combined with water and the slightly soapy smell. Their toxicity is particularly evident in other plants such as the European cyclamen (bot. Cyclamen purpurascens), which is one of the most toxic European plants of all and is deadly. The snowberry's low concentration of saponins does not cause death in humans, but is why the snowberry is mildly toxic.
Snowberries contain a variety of alkaloids, including chelidonine. Chelidonine is an isoquinoline alkaloid that has a toxic effect on cell division, but is also not really dangerous for adults due to its low concentration. These alkaloids have a corrosive effect and enhance the effect on the human body.
The snowberry is also poisonous due to a substance that has not yet been found by research. So far, researchers are only sure that this substance is responsible for the irritating effect on the stomach or increases it. Together with the saponins and alkaloids, this substance is responsible for the toxic effect on humans. The toxic cocktail of these ingredients causes a variety of symptoms in humans.
These are as follows:
- vomiting diarrhea
- irritated gastric mucosa
- irritated mucous membranes, for example on the eyes, when the fingers come into contact with the plant juices and rub
While it is possible to consume the snowberries, the correct dose must be observed. You will not poison yourself if you eat four berries or less. However, from a quantity of ten berries, a detoxification should be carried out to protect the body from the effects of the poison.Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus
Proceed as follows:
- water or tea should be given
- Milk should be avoided as an addition
- Charcoal tablets should be taken by the poisoned
- then contact a doctor or hospital
Tip: Snowberries were used extensively by Native Americans in Washington and Oregon, and their bodies adapted to eating them with ease. They not only ate them raw, dried or made a tea from the leaves, but also used the saponins in the berries as a natural shampoo.
Children are more sensitive to snowberry ingredients than adults. Especially infants and young children must not be in contact with the Berry and snowberry leaves. the leaves are also toxic and may irritate skin when rubbed between hands. The biggest problem, however, is when they "pop" the berries in their hands. As with the leaves, this can plant juices get on your skin and fingers and get in your eyes or mouth. Children should never eat the berries, because just one fruit is enough to trigger symptoms of poisoning. Detoxification is therefore necessary immediately.
Tip: Snowberries have a similar effect on sensitive people as they do on children. Especially people with problematic digestion can suffer from the berries and should be detoxified as soon as possible.
Effect on domestic and farm animals
The ingredients described above are also mildly toxic to a variety of animals. However, the effect is highly dependent on the type of animal, since the metabolism differ greatly from each other. The following list provides information on how dogs, cats and other species react to snowberry ingredients and whether they should be fed.
Snowberries are poisonous to dogs. The symptoms are similar to those that occur in humans. An advantage, however, are the ingredients of Symphoricarpos albus. Due to dogs' good sense of smell, the berries and leaves are avoided in most cases as it is very unpleasant. Puppies or older dogs, on the other hand, whose sense of smell is no longer as good, tend to chew or eat the berries or leaves completely due to boredom or the urge to play. In the case of smaller dogs such as dachshunds, care should also be taken to ensure that even small amounts can be dangerous.dog in the garden
Cats are more sensitive to the snowberry compared to dogs and are more at risk as their sense of smell and taste is much less developed. Since all house tigers chew on plants they are not familiar with, poisoning is possible. The greater danger comes from the leaves, not the fruit of the plant. Therefore, if your cat is an outdoor cat, you should keep an eye out for Symphoricarpos albus nearby.
If a bush of snowberries can be reached over the paddock fence, horses will definitely try the snap peas. Even larger amounts are not dangerous to the ungulates, however, they can suffer from stomach problems resulting in discomfort and possible diarrhea. Due to their size and weight, however, they would have to consume a large number of the berries before major problems arise.
Rabbits and rodents such as hamsters are highly endangered by the berries because their organism is much smaller and for this reason the saponins affect them more. The berries and leaves must therefore not be eaten by the small animals. If you find out that your hamster, mouse or rabbit has eaten snowberries, you should go to the vet immediately.Rabbit as a pet
In North America, however, numerous animal species have been fed the fruit, and many wild animals eat it as a major part of their diet. These include species that only occur in America.
- Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis)
- White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
- Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus)
- Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)
Even wild hare species like the cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus audubonii) in America can feed on the berries without any problems, as they are native there.Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus
Tip: Birds, compared to dogs, cats and other animals, enjoy consuming snowberries and do not suffer from the toxins they contain. If you want to attract birds, you should definitely bring the wood into the garden so that you can watch the birds foraging.