Toxic Bark Chips

Asked May 22, 2016, 12:54 PM EDT

I recently received a load of bark chips w/leaves and some small twigs through the free organization. I noticed the aroma of almonds. I didn't think anything of it. My son arrived to help spread the bark chips and immediately his eyes were burning and his throat became soar. He went into the house and washed his eyes. He then asked me what kind of bark chips they are. I looked closely and it appears the leaves are laurel. He then told me that some trees can be toxic and release cyanide poison, and can be dangerous to human health. I did not know this and now I have a driveway full of these bark chips and leaves that I believe I should not spread around my yard and garden. I am very concerned that the arborist, Alive Arboriculture, would dump toxic plant materials on unsuspecting people like me. I do not want to keep plant materials that poison people, other plants, animals, birds, I don't know how far reaching the toxins can be!! What should I do? I don't want to pass them off on another unsuspecting person! Thank You, Cora Grey

Multnomah County Oregon

3 Responses

Cherry laurel is a nasty plant and the fruit, leaves and wood are all toxic. A pile of fresh wood chips from laurel can out gas unpleasant compounds including cyanide.

In terms of dealing with the chips, you have several options including:

  • Have the material removed by a hauler
  • Allow the material to sit and out gas and then spread it around your yard as planned. If you spread the pile out a bit to expose a greater surface area, it will out gas faster.
You might contact Chip Drop to report the incident and ask them to inform the company that this material is not welcome as part of a drop of chips.

Please let me know if you have any further questions.


Thank You for the information. I do plan to tell Chip Drop about this matter. But I am still concerned that the bark chips I spread around in my yard may be toxic to animals, bugs, and/or children. Should I be concerned?

Once the chips are spread out, the large surface area of the material will speed the breakdown of the material and it should not pose a risk to animals or children as long as they are not ingesting the material.