Today, we're going to explore your house and yard and look for toxic plants. Before the panic sets in and you start ripping out plants, let me say a few things:
Poisonings from plants are very rare in humans. One reason...most don't taste good. Another reason... the amount you would have to ingest to be fatal in many cases is huge, but they're still considered toxic. Many plants aren't toxic enough to cause a fatality, but cause severe stinging and swelling, a nasty stomach ache or severe diarrhea. Most poisonings that do occur, are to children, young pets and grazing animals that are investigating their world...by taste.
So this list will include plants that are considered toxic, regardless of how toxic they are, and those that are considered irritants. Wherever possible we'll cover what part of the plant is harmful. Some plants are only toxic to certain animals, so we'll cover that, where applicable. This is a good time also to remind you that just because an animal eats it, doesn't mean you can, or if you eat it, doesn't mean your pet should. Birds eat poison ivy berries... but I wouldn't recommend it!
The first group of plants are those that contain substances that cause immediate burning or stinging sensations if ingested. Because of the rapid onset, swallowing is rare. However, if swallowed, throat swelling and difficulty breathing could occur, so with any ingestion, seek medical attention. Some of these plants will be listed again later because they irritate your skin also.
Elephant Ears (Alocasia, Colocasia ) - leaves and stems. Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema) - leaves. Anemone (Anemone) - entire plant. Anthurium (Anthurium) - leaves and stems. Jack-in-the-pulpit, Green Dragon (Arisaema) - entire plant. Italian Arum (Arum) - entire plant. Caladiums (Caladium) - leaves and stems. Peppers (Capsicum) - Yes, peppers fall into this group and are considered toxic because of capsaicin, the burn from a jalapeno or habenero. Eat enough and you'll need medical attention. Fishtail Palm (Caryota) - fruit pulp. Clematis (Clematis) - entire plant. Dumbcane (Dieffenbachia) - leaves. Gets it's name because it causes the throat to swell making speech unintelligible. Foxglove (Digitalis) - entire plant. Corn plant (Draceana) - leaves. Devil's Ivy, Pothos (Epipremnum) - all parts. English and Algerian Ivy (Hedera) - the berry and leaf. Christmas and Lenten Rose (Helleborus) - entire plant. Leucothoe (Leucothoe) - Leaves and honey made from the nectar. Split leaf Philodendron (Monstera) - leaves. Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum) - entire plant and especially the bulb. Philodendron (Philodendron) - leaves. Mountain Andromeda (Pieris) - leaves, nectar and honey made from them. Trifoliate Orange (Poncirus) - fruit is very bitter and toxic. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) - entire plant. Calla Lily (Zantedeschia) - entire plant but especially the leaves. Rain Lily (Zephyranthes) - the bulb is mildly toxic.
The next group of plants are those that contain toxins but in small quantities. These cause minor illnesses such as vomiting or diarrhea. But toxicity varies with the plant, amount ingested and the size of the person or pet that ate it, so again, seek medical attention with any ingestion.
Horsechesnut (Aesculus) - all parts and honey made from the pollen. Danger greatest to grazing animals. Allamanda (Allamanda) - leaves, fruit, seed and sap. Wild Onion, Wild Garlic (Allium) - Yes, the little weed in your lawn is toxic. Gives children a nasty stomach ache, but particularly toxic to cows. Aloe (Aloe) - the latex sap under the skin is poisonous. Amaryllis (Amaryllis) - the bulb. Aucuba (Aucuba) - the seed. False Indigo (Baptisia ) - entire plant. Carolina Allspice, Sweet Betsy (Calycanthus) - seeds are toxic but only reported intoxications have been to animals, none to humans. Bittersweet (Celastrus) - the fruit is reported to be mildly toxic. Cyclamen (Cyclamen) - entire plant. Bleeding Heart (Dicentra) - entire plant, risk greatest for cats. Snowdrops (Galanthus) - bulbs are toxic. Ground Ivy (Glechoma ) - leaves and stems. Here's another yard weed, sometimes container plant, that's toxic, but the greatest concern is for horses. Hyacinth (Hyacinthus) - bulb. Hydrangeas (Hydrangea) - flower bud. In significant quantities causes cyanide poisoning. St. John's Wort (Hypericum) - entire plant. Ameican Holly (Ilex) - the fruit is poisonous. Iris (Iris) - leaves and rootstock. Black Walnut (Juglans) - wood shavings to horses and seed hulls to dogs. Lantana (Lantana) - immature berry is toxic, no reported poisonings with mature berries. Symptoms occur 2-6 hours after ingestion. Sweet Pea (Lathyrus) - entire plant especially the seeds. Ligustrum (Ligustrum) - whole plant including berries. Cardinal Flower (Lobelia) - entire plant. Honeysuckle (Lonicera) - This is an odd one. Honeysuckle berries are eaten in the United States, but berries from the same specie have been associated with severe and fatal poisonings in Europe. Tomato (Lycopersicon) - leaves, vines and sprouts but aren't tomato sandwiches good...a little provolone cheese...get's your tongue to flappin', dang near beat your brains out! Magic and Spider Lilies (Lycoris) - the bulbs are mildly toxic. Apples (Malus) - the seeds, if chewed and swallowed in large quantities. Daffodils (Narcissus) - the bulb. Mistletoe (Phoradendron) - the berries. Peach, Plum, Cherry, Apricot (Prunus) - the kernal of the pit is poisonous, most poisonings associated with the apricot. Red Oak (Quercus) - fall buds, spring shoots and acorns to cattle. Ranunculus (Ranunculus) - Sap is toxic. Rhubarb (Rheum) - Raw or canned leaves are toxic in large quantities. Elderberry (Sambucus) - whole plant is toxic, ripe fruits can be eaten in limited amounts and cooked fruit is harmless. Jerusalem Cherry (Solanum) - immature fruit. Potato (Solanum) - uncooked sprout and sun-greened skin. Wisteria (Wisteria) - all parts including flowers. Cardboard Palm (Zamia ) - roots and trunk.
The next group of plants are those that present the greatest risk when ingested. These can cause serious illness or death if enough is ingested.
Red Maple (Acer) - leaves, but only to horses. Monkshood (Aconitum) - entire plant but especially the leaves. Crocus (Colchicum) - entire plant. Lily-of the-Valley (Convallaria) - entire plant and the water flowers have been kept in. Carolina Jessamine or Jasmine (Gelsemium) - entire plant. Easter Lily (Lilium) - whole plant but only to cats. Oleander (Nerium) - whole plant including smoke if burned and water the flowers have been in. May Apple (Podophyllum) - entire plant except the fruit. Azaleas, Rhododendrons (Rhododendron) - leaves and honey made from the nectar. Castor Bean (Ricinus) - seeds. Black Locust (Robinia) - seeds. Squill (Scilla) - entire plant. Indian Pink (Spigelia) - entire plant. Yew (Taxus ) - most of the plant, especially the seeds.
This last group is associated with contact dermatitis from the sap or leaves. They may cause rashes, immediate stinging or burning sensations, or may be eye irritants. This group contains the plant we get the most inquiries about...the Poinsettia. I've eaten it. It's not poisonous, nor tasty. It's considered a toxic plant because if you eat enough...it could upset you stomach, or get the sap in your eyes... it may irritate them. But kill you?...Only if it falls from a great height and strikes you on the head.
Fir (Abies), Chenille Plant & Copper Plant (Acalypha), Yarrow (Achillea), Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus), Century Plant (Agave), Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema), Elephant Ears (Alocasia, Colocasia), Amaryllis & Belladonna Lily (Amaryllis), Anemone (Anemone), Wormwood (Artemisia), Arum (Arum), Butterfly Weed & Milkweed (Aesclepias), Asparagus (Asparagus), Barberry (Berberis), Birch (Betula), Boxwood (Buxus), Caladium (Caladium), Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum), Clematis (Clematis), Crocus (Colchicum), Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria), Dogwood (Cornus), Smoketree (Cotinus), Jade Plant (Crassula), Cyclamen (Cyclamen), Bermudagrass (Cynadon), Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus), Carnation, Sweet William (Dianthus), Bleeding Heart (Dicentra), Pothos (Devil's Ivy) (Epipremnum), Crown-of-Thorns, Poinsettia & Pencil Cactus (Euphorbia), Fescue (Fescue), Fig (Ficus), Ash (Fraxinus), Blanket Flower (Gaillardia), Snowdrops (Galanthus), Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium), Gladiolus (Gladiolus), Baby's Breath (Gypsophila), Ivy (Hedera), Lenton and Christmas Rose (Helleborus), Hyacinth (Hyacinthus), Hydrangea (Hydrangea), St. John's Wort (Hypericum), Iris (Iris), Snowflake (Leucojum), Ligustrum (Ligustrum), Lily (Lilium), Tomato (Lycopersicon), Split Leaf Philodendron (Monstera), Daffodil, Jonquil, Narcissus (Narcissus), Oleander (Nerium), Poppy (Papaver), Boston Ivy & Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus), Philodendron (Philodendron),Cape Plumbago (Plumbago), Ming Aralia (Polyscias), Primrose (Primula), Pyracantha (Pyrancantha), Moses-in-the-Cradle (Rhoeo), Rue (Ruta), Snake Plant (Sansevieria), Umbrella Plant (Schefflera), Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum), Marigolds (Tagetes), Arborvitae (Thuja), Tulip (Tulipa), Elm (Ulmus), Calla Lily (Zantedeschia).
So, have I scared the bejeebee's out of you? Is your first thought to lock the kids and pets in the house, put on a hazmat suit and grab the chainsaw and brush killer? Well take a deep breath. Nothing has changed since before you knew that you are surrounded by toxic plants. These are common plants that you are likely to have as houseplants, planted around your home, growing in nearby fields and woods or for sale at your favorite garden center! They've been there all along but now you know which ones to watch the kids and pets around.