A word of caution regarding toxic plants

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The “pic of the week” by Earl Blackaby in the Jan. 29 Walla Walla Valley Weekly was a gorgeous photograph of Bohemian waxwings feeding on yew arils. The picture was so alluring I felt a word of caution might be in order.

Yews are commonly planted as ornamental shrubs and hedges in our area. The female yew produces a structure called an aril rather than a berry.

The aril is a fleshy bright red cup that contains an exposed seed. While the cup is not toxic, the seed is extremely toxic as are other parts of both female and male yews.

A variety of birds and other animals can ingest yew seeds without ill effects but both humans and dogs cannot.

Animals that feed on the arils do not break down the seed. It just passes through their bodies. Humans and dogs break down the seeds if ingested, which releases deadly alkaloids.

Despite its toxicity, ingestion of yew seeds or other parts by humans or dogs is very rare so there is absolutely no need to eliminate it from garden plantings.

Just a reminder that we are not waxwings.

Susan MacDonald

Walla Walla

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