Monday, September 02, 2013
Nandina berries are toxic to birds, by Tom Barnes
How many books, articles, and other materials have you read that says to plant Nandina, Heavenly Bamboo, or Sacred Bamboo (Nandina domestica) to attract and feed birds in the late winter? This plant is classified as a noxious weed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and many states list it as a noxious-invasive weed because it escapes readily from the home landscape. It is used as an ornamental because of the dark glossy green leaves and bright red berries that persist throughout the winter. It is still used, in large numbers by the horticultural industry and landscapers and is a recommended landscape plant by University Extension programs across the country. Unfortunately this species, which has escaped from cultivation, is highly toxic to birds. The bright red berries contain cyanide and other alkaloids that produce highly toxic hydrogen cyanide (HCN) which is extremely poisonous to all animals. Sudden death may be the only sign of cyanide poisoning and death usually comes in minutes to an hour. The deaths of cedar waxwings in Georgia that were necropsied at the Vet. school showed hemorrhaging in the heart, lungs, trachea, abdominal cavity and other organs. This is a horribly painful method of death for a bird or any other animal. Bird deaths in the Houston, TX area and other parts of the country have also documented the death of songbirds as a result of eating these berries.