Common Name
Botanic Name
Sambucus L.
Plant Family
Prefers open areas, open woodlands in rich, moist soils along streams, ditches, and ponds.
Animals Affected
Cattle, sheep
Toxic Principle
Cyanogenic glycoside sambunigrin which is hydrolysed in the rumen by microorganisms to free hydrogen cyanide (HCN). All parts of the plant are poisonous especially if wilted or in regrowth. The Cyanide blocks the action of cytochrome oxidase that prevents hemoglobin from releasing oxygen to the tissues. Death results rapidly from anoxia.
Woody shrubs growing up to 20 ft in height forming colonies from underground runners. The woody stems are filled with white pith. Leaves are opposite, pinnately compound, with lanceolate serrated leaflets. Conspicuous terminal, flat topped clusters of white 5 petaled flowers 4-6mm in diameter. Drooping clusters of dark purple (S.canadensis) or red (S. racemosa) juicy berries, each with several seeds.
Without stressing the animal, sodium thiosulfate and sodium nitrite should be given intravenously. A mixture of 1ml 20% sodium nitrite and 3ml of 20% sodium thiosulfate should be prepared and given at the rate of 4 ml of the mixture per 100lbs body weight. Sodium thiosulfate should be given orally via stomach using 30gm dissolved in a gallon of water.
Cardiovascular system
Increased heart rate. The venous blood is bright cherry-red in color.
Respiratory System
Increased respiratory rate, panting, open-mouthed breathing, and extreme difficulty breathing. The mucous membranes are bright red. Death results rapidly from asphyxiation.
Nervous System
Cyanide poisoned animals become very excited when unable to breathe.
Reproductive System
Abortions may occur several days later if the dam survives the acute effects of cyanide poisoning.
Acute death, with cherry-red blood venous blood, and absence of other causes of death are highly suggestive. Rumen contents or plant material can be tested for cyanide using the sodium picrate test. Commerical test kits are available.
Special Notes
The ripe black or red fruits are edible provided the hard seeds are removed. Animals rarely eat elderberries Horses are rarely affected by cyanide poisoning from plants.
Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa)berries