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Are cotoneaster berries poisonous?

Are cotoneaster berries poisonous?

Close up on Cotoneaster

Originally native to China, Cotoneaster is renowned for its ornamental beauty, with its glossy foliage and vibrant berries adding a touch of elegance to gardens and landscapes. However, a common question among homeowners and gardening enthusiasts is whether Cotoneaster berries are poisonous.

First, what is Cotoneaster?
Cotoneaster is a genus of shrubs and small trees that belong to the Rosaceae family. With over 300 species, these plants are popular for their versatility, often used in the UK as ground cover, hedges, or decorative additions to gardens. Some varieties of Cotoneaster are aggressive and spread easily, making them invasive.

Are the berries from Cotoneaster poisonous?
Cotoneaster berries are toxic to both humans and household pets. The main reason for such toxicity is the production of cyanogenic glycosides, which are compounds that can release cyanide when broken down. Cyanide is toxic to humans and pets in sufficient quantities. While the levels of cyanogenic glycosides in Cotoneaster berries are generally too low to kill you, it’s crucial to be cautious, especially with children and animals, as ingestion may lead to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and abdominal discomfort. In extreme cases, although rare, more severe reactions could occur.

One exception to the rule:
Despite being toxic to humans and pets, Cotoneaster berries are adored by birds! One reason for this is that birds have a higher tolerance to cyanide than us. One great proof of how much birds love Cotoneaster berries would be the fact that one of the ways for Cotoneaster to spread is through bird droppings! This leads to the seeds spreading in new environments, allowing new colonies to be established.

Look beyond the berries:
Cotoneaster is considered an invasive species. Out of the hundreds of different varieties of Cotoneaster in the UK, 5 are currently listed under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Even though it is not illegal to have it in your garden, you are committing an offense if you cause it to spread into the wild. That’s because the plant is bad for the environment by establishing quickly, reducing overall biodiversity, and impacting food sources for small animals and invertebrates.

Cotoneaster plants, berries, and soil that might hold seeds are classed as Controlled Waste and cannot be disposed of in normal household waste streams. This is why, we would always recommend that you hire a professional team to remove larger areas of Cotoneaster that cannot be effectively composed or burned on site. Professional teams will be much quicker to do the job and will be trusted to ensure that everything in the soil is removed properly including roots and seeds. They will also ensure that the infested soil and dead plants are disposed of responsibly.

For more information on our Cotoneaster removal method, click here.

Robert Spaceman

“We had a large stand of bamboo removed, thinned, contained and replaced. The customer service has been first class. Joe and Jason were fabulous and kept me well informed at all times”.