This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Since writing upon this subject for a previous number of the Gardener's Monthly, I have been informed by a Hammontonian who formerly owned a sheep farm in Pennsylvania, that he had often seen sheep poisoned by " Laurel," and I have no doubt that if necessary, I could soon produce positive evidence sufficient to convince the Editor even without a chemical analysis; although I see no reason why if prussic acid exists in our Kalmia, it cannot be taken from it as readily as from the European Laurel.
A case of poisoning by Wild Cherry was reported in Massachusetts some years since, but in this instance it was either a horse or a bovine that was poisoned, and the branches of the tree were cut off and thrown over a fence. I think I saw this in the N. E. Farmer, and in comments upon it the editor or another correspondent stated that Wild Cherry and Peach leaves contained prussic acid, but in small quantity, and animals seldom ate enough to produce serious effects, and that the animal poisoned had probably eaten more freely because the leaves were wilted.
[Wild Cherry - Cerasus serotina - does contain prussic acid, as also does the Laurel, which is Cerasus lauro-cerasus. But the "Laurel" of the Hammontonians is not a laurel, and therefore need not necessarily contain the poison which the laurel has.
There seems to be no reason to doubt but that sheep and perhaps other cattle sometimes die after eating, not only Kalmia leaves, but many other green things, when they suddenly come on them amidst the hunger of a snowed-up time. As chemical analysis seems unable to find any poison in these plants, it is just as reasonable to suppose they died from having made beasts of themselves under temptation, as that the plants are poisonous. We have known cows, horses and rabbits, time and again to die from eating clover; but who will say clover is "poisonous?" It must not be forgotten that we do not dispute the death of the cattle; our point is that the laurel is not poisonous. - Ed. G. M].