Russian Almond Seedlings
Russian Almond (Prunus tenella) is a cold-hardy shrub native to Eastern Europe and Western Syberia. They are commonly used as an accent plant along borders for their showy spring flowers turning to hairy green fruit in the fall. Like commercial almonds, the seed is not an actual nut but a drupe – a shelled pit surrounded by an outer green flesh. Both fruit and seeds are edible, though they are best planted as an accent plant as pits are small, bitter, and contain trace amounts of hydrogen cyanide.
“Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, it belongs to a genus (prunus) where most, if not all members of the genus produce hydrogen cyanide, a poison that gives almonds their characteristic flavor. This toxin is found mainly in the leaves and seed and is readily detected by its bitter taste. It is usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm, but any very bitter seed or fruit should not be eaten. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion; it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.”