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GENUS: Hydrangea

Hydrangea arborescens L.Hills-of-snow; sevenbark

Hydrangea macrophylla (Thunb) Ser.—Hydrangea

Hydrangea paniculata Siebold—PeeGee hydrangea

FAMILY: Saxifragaceae—the Saxifrage Family

The only member of this large and diverse family with known poisonous properties is Hydrangea. The characteristics of Hydrangea, provided below, replace the family description.

PHENOLOGY: The introduced common garden hydrangea, H. macrophylla, flowers in midsummer. The native tree hydrangea or hills-of-snow (H. arborescens) is found blooming June and July, while the introduced PeeGee hydrangea (H. paniculata) flowers later in the season, during August and September.

DISTRIBUTION: The garden hydrangea is a well known, "old fashioned" ornamental cultivated for display in outdoor plantings, pots, or tubs. The hills-of-snow is a garden cultivar of the native H. arborescens that is found on dry or moist rocky woods and hillsides. The PeeGee hydrangea, H. paniculata, is a native of eastern Asia, also used in landscaping.

PLANT CHARACTERISTICS: The hydrangeas mentioned above have leaves: deciduous, opposite, petioled, toothed; flowers: in flat-topped or globular terminal cymes, often with the outer flowers sterile and much enlarged relative to the inner ones, ranging in color from white to pink, lavender, or blue; flowers: 5-merous; sepals: showy; ovary: inferior, or nearly so; fruits: dry capsules containing many small seeds.

POISONOUS PARTS: The leaves and buds contain the poisonous constituents.

SYMPTOMS: Under certain conditions the toxins produce gastrointestinal upset, nausea, diarrhea (bloody), and vomiting.

POISONOUS PRINCIPLES: Research indicates that hydrangea sometimes contains a cyanogenic glycoside, hydrangin. Other constituents include saponin, resins, fixed and volatile oils, and starch.

CONFUSED TAXA: The hydrangeas are popular cultivated plants not easily confused with other taxa.

SPECIES OF ANIMALS AFFECTED: Both livestock and human cases have been reported. Sickness was painful but recovery occurred.

TREATMENT: (11a)(b); treat for cyanide poisoning.

OF INTEREST: Analysis of poisoned victims does not always show symptoms compatible with cyanide poisoning. Roots of H. arborescens were used by American pioneers in the treatment of dyspepsia.

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