In May, the bright, golden-yellow flowers of laburnum can be seen from afar. The characteristic, up to 30 centimeters long flower clusters with butterfly blossoms are very decorative. They attract bees as well as butterflies. Incidentally, laburnum is one of the most poisonous garden plants, along with deadly nightshade, monkshood and angel’s trumpet. What parts contain the poison? How to protect children and pets from the risks?

The rain of gold

Laburnum is a member of the legume family (Fabaceae) and belongs to the subfamily of the legume family (Faboideae). The ornamental shrub has adorned parks and gardens in Central Europe since the 16th century. Laburnum grows in the wild in southern and south-eastern Europe.

Laburnum is also known as clover tree or bean tree.

Growth form: shrubby with overhanging branches
Height: up to 6 meters
Flowers: yellow, 2 cm large butterfly flowers on 30 cm long racemes
Flowering period: May to June
Leaves: tripartite, pinnate
Seeds: black, 6 – 8 cm long, bean-shaped seed pods with shiny, flattened Seed
care: easy to care for, undemanding
Special feature: dangerous poisonous plant

Which parts of the plant are poisonous?

Are only the flowers or only the seeds of Laburnum poisonous? Do wood or leaves contain poison? Is touch enough to pick up the poison? The answer is clear: all parts of the attractive ornamental shrub are highly toxic!


The most dangerous component of laburnum is called cytisine. The highly toxic alkaloid, which is similar to nicotine, is found in all parts of the plant. The cytisine content in the seeds is particularly high. The riper the seeds become, the higher their cytisine content.

In children, eating 15 to 20 seeds is fatal. This number is already contained in four to five seed pods. In healthy adults, 20 to 23 seeds will result in death.

Thankfully, fatal Laburnum seed poisoning is rare. The reason for this is the violent vomiting that begins shortly after the consumption of the toxic components.

Signs of laburnum poisoning

Typical symptoms of poisoning appear within the first hour after ingesting just a few seeds:

  • burning in the mouth
  • strong thirst
  • stomach cramps
  • nausea
  • Vomit
  • tachycardia
  • dizziness
  • Tremble
  • visual disturbances
  • sweats
  • cramps

Death occurs from respiratory paralysis or cardiovascular failure. The signs of poisoning with parts of the laburnum plant are sometimes similar to the symptoms of nicotine poisoning.

The effect

The poison only works through oral ingestion. Accordingly, cytisine enters the organism through chewing or swallowing seeds, leaves or flowers. Merely touching the shrub has no effect on healthy children or adults.

Note: Even the popular wisteria is not a harmless alternative to laburnum. The components of laburnum, especially the seeds, are toxic to humans and animals.

First aid

If you notice signs of Laburnum poisoning in a child or an adult, call an ambulance or take the sick person to a hospital as soon as possible. Give him plenty of water to drink.

Risks to pets?

Cytisine is also toxic to pets and livestock. The poisoning manifests itself in all mammals as in humans by vomiting, tremors and convulsions.

Dogs eat laburnum seed pods out of boredom or curiosity. The lethal dose depends on the size of the dog. About five grams of seeds per kilogram of body weight are deadly. Vomiting, which occurs quickly in dogs, is considered a natural defense mechanism and can therefore often prevent fatal poisoning.

Cats are at risk from as little as three grams of semen.
In guinea pigs, rabbits and birds, the ingestion of parts of the laburnum plant can lead to death.
The yellow flowering shrubs also pose risks for horses. Eating 250 grams of laburnum seed causes death in horses.
Cows and goats, on the other hand, excrete the toxin cytisine with their milk. You are therefore protected yourself. The animals should never graze near Laburnum bushes, because the consumption of the milk can lead to symptoms of poisoning in humans.

First aid for pets: If you suspect poisoning with parts of the laburnum, go to a veterinary clinic or call the veterinarian. Give the animal water to drink.

Tip: If you have small children or pets in your household, do not plant laburnum in your garden. The risk is simply too great!

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