Health scare tree cut down

A TREE at the centre of a health scare for Ipswich school children has today been cut down.Fifteen students at St Pancras Roman Catholic Primary School were taken to hospital yesterday amid fears they may have eaten poisonous seeds from trees overhanging the school grounds.

A TREE at the centre of a health scare for Ipswich school children has today been cut down.

Fifteen students at St Pancras Roman Catholic Primary School were taken to hospital yesterday amid fears they may have eaten poisonous seeds from trees overhanging the school grounds.

As revealed on the Evening Star's website yesterday afternoon, the alarm was raised after the pupils were spotted touching and eating the pods of a laburnum tree, which was in a garden close to the newly-expanded grounds.

Today, the owner of the tree, Collette Whatcham, of Stratford Road, had tree surgeons at her house cutting the tree back to the stump.

The school's grounds service visited Ms Whatcham about the tree, which stood at around 12ft.

She said: “I never really realised the tree was there.

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“I've been doing some gardening and clearing, and the school have been doing some work too, so it's made the tree more prominent.

“I didn't know what had happened until the headteacher called round. I was worried about the welfare of the children but he said they are fine.

“I've never found the tree a problem. My children never used to go to that area of the garden as it was so overgrown.”

When the alarm was raised yesterday, staff at the school called NHS Direct as the seedpods can cause illness and in rare cases be lethal if consumed in excess.

Head teacher Stephen Barker said: “Thank God everyone is alright. Nobody has been ill.”

“We were given advice by NHS direct to say to parents that if they had concerns they should pop them up to A&E.

“The children were fine and they are all here today. It is healthy living week this week and we have been doing lessons in exercising and eating exotic fruit but this was just one of those things.

“We are going to make sure that the children are told about the dangers of this kind of thing in the same way that they are taught about other dangers in society. I am writing a letter to parents today to let them know we are removing the tree and that there is no further danger.”

After one parent became concerned and took their child to hospital, a consultant advised that all the children affected should go in to be monitored as a precaution. They were assessed by medics and later discharged after being given the all-clear.

N Was your child among those taken to hospital? Call the Star newsroom on 01473 324788.

All parts of the laburnum plant are poisonous but particularly the seedpods, which can be lethal if consumed in excess.

The black seeds within the plant's pods contain an alkaloid poison and have a bitter taste.

The trees are often appealing to children because they have striking yellow flowers and dangling seedpods that look similar to peapods.

Symptoms can include intense sleepiness, vomiting, convulsive movements, coma, slight frothing at the mouth and unequally dilated pupils.

Cases of poisoning are usually dealt with by treating various symptoms rather than giving an antidote.

Poisoning is said to be relatively rare nowadays.

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