They are yellowish-red solids, which behave as weak bases, their salts undergoing hydrolytic dissociation in aqueous solution.
It appears to be synthesized in the plant tissues from carbon dioxide and water, formaldehyde being an intermediate product; or it may be a hydrolytic product of a glucoside or of a polysaccharose, such as cane sugar, starch, cellulose, &c. In the plant it is freely converted into more complex sugars, poly-saccharoses and also proteids.
On the other hand, they are much weaker bases than the aliphatic amines, their salts undergoing hydrolytic dissociation in aqueous solution.
The alkali and alkaline earth cyanides are soluble in water and in alcohol, and their aqueous solution, owing to hydrolytic dissociation, possesses an alkaline character.
Boric acid (q.v.) being only a weak acid, its salts readily undergo hydrolytic dissociation in aqueous solution, and this property can be readily shown with a concentrated aqueous solution of borax, for by adding litmus and then just sufficient acetic acid to turn the litmus red, the addition of a large volume of water to the solution changes the colour back to blue again.