Toxic trees can have varying effects. Ones to look out for are
Wild Cherry, Black Walnut, and Kentucky Coffee Trees. Wild Cherry branches if broken, such as in a storm, the leaves
become toxic with cyanide as they dry out. Naturally shed leaves in the fall do not have the same effect, but better to avoid
them altogether. Black Walnut is so toxic that simple contact with shavings made from the wood can cause SEVERE acute laminitis.
Kentucky Coffee Trees produce seed pods that when eaten by livestock, give the animals what is essentially like nicotine poisoning
and death is likely. Other trees can also be bad, such as Oak trees producing acorns that can also cause laminitis and colic.
I've known horses to be housed in pastures full of Black Walnuts and Oaks that never suffered any harm, but some horses are
not that choosy or seem to love the taste of acorns and will gorge on them and need to be fenced off seasonally.
Cherry Trees: They range from shrub sized
up to 30 feet high. They have reddish brown bark and obviously produce Cherries. The leaves are typically 2-6 inches long
with a toothed edge and pale to dark green, changing each fall before shedding, to a range of different colors. While
the focus is more on wild cherries, I would recommend not planting ANY type of Cherry where the branches may dead fall or
be accessable to horses. Cherry trees grow pretty much everywhere in the USA.
Black Walnut: This type of hickory tree grows all over forested areas and
is frequently cultivated for the nuts and wood. It can be quite large and has rough bark. The leaves grow on stems with multiple
small leaves per stem. The nuts start to appear through the season and fall in the autumn. The tree is quite hardy and long
lived. I saw far more in Arkansas/Missouri than in Kansas.
Coffee Tree: The seeds were previously used to produce a type of coffee, but the seeds are quite hard and
need to be heated to neutralize the toxins. The Seed Pods appear most visible in the winter when the leaves have fallen. The
Pods remain in the top until spring. The pods resemble giant pea pods with hard seeds inside. This is the part that is toxic
to animals, the pod and its contents. I don't recall ever seeing them in the Ozarks, but I wasn't aware of the tree at all
until recently. It is considered fairly uncommon but is sometimes part of old homesteads or was used in landscaping.
Oak Trees: They come in a wide variety. One noteable thing
about oaks are that the acorns are the only really harmful part, and the tanic acid is easily removed with a good soaking
rain, at least until the next batch fall to the ground. Native Americans used to eat them after soaking in water to remove
the tannin and other than the law of avoiding over-indulgence of any one food, acorns are not particularly dangerous after
a good rain. Just watch the greedy horses and keep them off the acorns if you have a "bumper crop" until it rains.
Next month: Shrubs and weeds.