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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

FDA Poisonous Plant Database

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AUTHOR(S): Warren, L. E.
TITLE: A note on the poisonous properties of Parthenocissus quinquefolia.
YEAR: 1912 CITATION: Merck Rep, 21(May), 123 [English]
FDA #: F06434
ABSTRACT: Complete Article: The death of a child after eating the berries of the Virginia creeper was recently recorded by the public press in Oregon.(1) It appears that the child was taken violently ill without any assignable cause and died after a short time. An examination of the patient¿s vomitus showed that it contained a large quantity of the disintegrated berries from this plant, from which it was concluded that the fruit was the probable cause of illness. The press report states that the city milk chemist (of Portland) then fed a dozen of the fresh berries to a healthy guinea pig, with the result that the animal died in 36 hours. The Virginia creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia (L.) Planchon, is better known as Ampelopsis quinquefolia Michaux. At various times it has been called Ampelopsis hederacea De Candolle, Hederacea quinquefolia Linné, Vitis hederacea Wildenow, Vitis quinquefolia Lamarck, and Cissus quinquefolia Persoon. Some of its local appellations are American ivy, American woodbine, false grape, five-leaved ivy, and wild wood-vine. It is a woody climber vrey abundant to North America. Its varieties are commonly cultivated for decoratvie purposes, the autumn foliage being very beautiful. The leading writers on toxicology do not mention the Virginia creeper, and apparently it is not generally considered toxic by authorities on poisonous plants, since it is not listed in the publications of Cornevin (2), Chesnut (3), Esser (4), Kanngiesser (5),, Schaffner (6), Smith (7), or Walsh (8). However, Pammel and Fogel (9), in their list of the poisonous plants of Iowa, say of it: ¿The fruit is looked upon with suspicion by some people, but there are no records of poisoning, so far as we know.¿ In a later work Pammel (10) says: ¿this plant is regarded as poisonous by some. The leaves and fruit abound in raphides.¿ While neither botanists nor toxicologists consider the plant toxic, there have been a few cases of poisoning attributed to it. Thus, Bernays (11) records the serious illness of two children from swallowing the juice from the chewed leaves. The symptoms were violent vomiting and purging, tenesmus followed by collapse and stupor for two hours, after which another period of vomiting and purging occurred. Gorup-Besanez (12) examined the fruit of this plant nearly forty years ago, and found large quantities of oxalic acid. A recent analysis by Poyneer and Duffin (13) has confirmed this fact. Holm (14) has recently shown the presence of calcium oxalate crystals in many parts of the plant, although the fruit is not mentioned in this connection. Whether or not oxalic acid exists in the fruit in the free state, the presence of calcium oxalate in the form of raphides would render the fruit poisonous, both from the irritating mechanical effect of the crystals and from the solubility of the substance in the gastric juice. The presence of alkaloids, glucosides, saponins, or toxalbumins has not been demonstrated. As oxalic acid is dangerously toxic (60 gr. Having caused the death of a human being (15)), it is quite possible that this constituent of the fruit is responsible for the death earlier recorded in this note. By correspondence with the physicians interested in the case mentioned, an attempt was made to get further information coerning the symptoms of the patient, especially with reference to their similarity to the indications of oxalic acid poisoning, but the evidence obtained was not sufficient to warrant any conclusions. Pending further investigations, the attention of gardeners, householders, and physicians is called to the suspicious character of the Virginia creeper. Bibliography: 1) Ore. Dal. Jour., 10. No. 195, p. 24 (1911). 2) Cornevin: Ses plantes vénéneuses et des empoisonnenments qui elles determinent (1893). 3) Chesnut: U.W.Dept of Ag., Bull. 86 (1898). (Thirty Pois. Plants. U.S.) ; USDA Div Bot, Bull 20(1898) (Princ. Pois. Plants, U.S.). ______ and Wilcox: USDA Div Bot, Bull 26 (1901), (Stock Pois. Plants Mont.) 4) Esser: Die giftpflanzen Deutschlands (1910). 5) Kanngiesser: Vergiftungen Pflanz. Pflanzenstoffe (1910). 6) Schaffner: Ohio Naturalist, 4. 16. 32 and 56 (1903-4) (Pois. Inj. Plants Ohio). 7) Smith: Pois Plants (1905) 8) Walsh: So. Af. Pois. Plants (1909) 9) Pammel and Fogel: Proc., Iowa Acad Sci., 14, 164 (1907) (Pois. Plants Iowa). 10) Pammel: Man. Pois. Plants. 124 (1910) 11) Bernays: Brit. Med. Jour., 11. 32 (1876); Lancet, 11, 26 (1876) 12) Gorup-Besanez: Neues Reprt. Pharm., 23, 180 (1874). 13) Poyneer and Duflin: Chem. News, 99. 99. (1909). 14) Holm: Merck¿s Rep., XX. 309 (1911) 15) Barker: Assn. Med. Jour., II, 1073 (1855),; Wittstein: Report, Pharm. [2]. 46, 317 (1845). Analysis of green leaves (Ampelopsis hederacea). Found tartaric acid gum and a substance which gave a green color with ferric chloride.; H. G. L: Drug Circ., 3. 198 (1859). States that the berries of Ampelopsis quinquefolia contain mallic acid.; Gorup-Besanez: Ber. Chem. Gesell., 4. 905 (1871).; annal. Chem Pharm., 161. 225 (1872). ; Neues Reprot. Pharm. 21. 109 (1872). Leaves of Ampelopsis hederacea gathered in midsummer contained albumen, pyrocatechin sugar, free tartaric acid, postassium bitartrate and calcium tartrate. Leaves collected in September contained neither tartaric acid nor potassium bitartrate but pectin and calcium glycolate were present. Phipson: Chem. News. 52. 65 (1875). Reports finding citric, tartaric, ¿viridicd¿ and ¿cafetannic¿ acids in the green leaves of Cissus quinquefolia.
GRIN #: 26804 Exit Disclaimer
COMMON NAME: Virginia creeper
LATIN NAMEParthenocissus quinquefolia
STANDARD PLANT NAMEParthenocissus quinquefolia (L.) Planch.