Common Name
Nandina, heavenly bamboo, Chinese heavenly bamboo.
Botanic Name
Nandina domestica
Plant Family
Mild temperate and subtropical areas
Animals Affected
Ruminants, dogs, humans
Nandina in flower
Toxic Principle
Some cultivars of Nandina contain significant quantities of cyanogenic glycosides which when hydrolyzed release hydrogen cyanide. Also present are various protoberberine alkaloids of unknown toxic significance. The best known of the alkaloids is berberine that is known to have anticholinesterase activity and causes smooth muscle relaxation, and hypotension. In higher doses seizures may occur, possibly as a result of the antagonistic effect of nantenine on the neurotransmitter serotonin.
Primarily a plant of China and Japan, the single species, Nandina domestica, has many cultivars favored for the delicate flowers and bright red-orange berries. It is not a true bamboo but rather is closely related to Podophyllum species (May apple), and Berberis species (Barberry). As evergreen or deciduous woody shrubs, Nandina have erect stems, 2-3 times pinnately compound leaves with elliptic leaflets. Leaves turn red-purple in the Fall. The inflorescence is a panicle with numerous, small, cream-white flowers. Berries are orange-red, with 1-3 seeds.
Intravenous sodium thiosulfate solution. See Choke cherry poisoning.
Respiratory System
Cultivars of Nandina with high cyanide content cause acute anoxia as a result of the hydrogen cyanide. Acute onset dyspnea, cherry-red colored mucous membranes and venous blood, and death within a few hours of eating a toxic dose of the plant can be anticipated, especially in ruminants.
Nervous System
Seizures and convulsions
Special Notes
The bunches of red berries that persist on the bushes in winter are attractive to animals, and children. Ruminants are more likely to be at risk from eating Nandina because they more readily hydrolyse the cyanogenic glycosides to hydrogen cyanide than do simple stomached animals. Prunings from Nandina should not be fed to ruminants, nor should it be planted in or around livestock enclosures.
Nandina berries