Poisonous Plants

foxgloveMost of the plants you grow are perfectly safe but it is advisable to see that all steps are taken to ensure that you and your family are safe from harm. This is particularly important when it comes to children and animals.

The Horticultural Trades Association has worked with the Royal Horticultural Society and other organisations to compile a list of potentially harmful plants and to develop a Code of Recommended Retail Practice for the labelling of plants at garden centres and nurseries. Look for safety information on labels when purchasing plants and learn what to do in the unlikely event of poisoning through eating or handling plants.

Many plants, or parts of them such as fruits and seeds, are safe and good to eat and are recognized as food plants. Most others found in the garden as ornamental plants or weeds are not dangerous. Some may cause a digestive upset and discomfort if eaten, as will unripe fruit or raw rhubarb stalks, whilst a very few garden plants are more hazardous and could cause severe poisoning. A sensible rule is: If it isn’t a recognized food, don’t eat it. Make sure children know this.

As well as the danger of poisoning through eating plants, there is also the possibility of suffering an irritant or allergic reaction through contact with a plant or its sap. There are three main types of contact hazard:

a) Irritant sap may cause a burning sensation and sometimes blistering of the skin

b) Some plants contain chemicals called allergens

c) A very small number of plants have sap which renders the skin excessively sensitive to strong sunlight

What to do when poisoning is suspected

If you think a child or adult has eaten part of a doubtful plant seek medical advice at once from a hospital Accident and Emergency Department. If you think an animal has eaten a poisonous plant seek veterinary advice at once. In all cases take along samples of the plant concerned. Don’t panic, and do not attempt to make the subject vomit. In cases of irritant or allergic dermatitis severe enough to require medical attention, again provide a sample of the plant or plants suspected to be the cause.

Here is a list of well known plants and a description of the potential risk. Those plants described as poisonous may cause mild illness when eaten, while a very few may cause severe poisoning. The correct approach is to avoid eating any plants listed as poisonous.

Key: P = Poisonous, S = Skin Irritant, E = Eye Irritant

Acalypha (chenille plant, copperleaf)

P S E

Aconitum (monkshood)

P S

Actaea (baneberry)

P S

Aesculus (horse chestnut)

P

Aglaonema (Chinese evergreen)

P S E

Agrostemma githago (corncockle)

P

Alder Buckthorn

P S

Allamanda

P S E

Alocasia (taro)

P S E

Aloe

P

Alstroemeria (Peruvian lily)

S

Amaryllis

P

Amaryllis belladona (belladonna lily)

P

Angel’s Trumpet

P

Anthurium (flamingo flower)

P S E

Arisaema (cobra-lily)

P S E

Arum (cuckoo-pint, lords-and-ladies)

P S E

Asparagus (asparagus fern)

may cause skin allergy fruits poisonous

Atropa (deadly nightshade)

P S

Bluebell

P

Brugmansia (angel’s trumpet)

P

Brunfelsia (yesterday, today and tomorrow)

P

Buckthorn

P S

Bunny Ears Cactus

S

Burning Bush

S

Caladium (angel’s wings)

P

Calla Lily

P S E

Calla palustris (water arum)

P S E

Capsicum annum (ornamental pepper)

P S E

Castor Oil Plant

P

Chelidonium majus (greater celandine)

P S E

Chenille Plant

P S E

Cherry Laurel

P

Chincherinchee

P S

Chinese evergreen

P S E

Christmas cherry

P

Chrysanthemum

S

Colchicum (autumn crocus)

P

Comfrey, Russian comfrey

P

Convallaria majalis (lily-of-the-valley)

P

Coriaria

P

Corncockle

P

Cupressocyparis leylandii (Leyland cypress)

S

Daffodil

P S

Daphne (mezereon, spurge laurel)

P S

Datura (thornapple)

P S

Delphinium (including Consolida) (larkspur)

P

Dictamnus (burning bush)

S

Dieffenbachia (dumb cane, leopard lily)

P S E

Digitalis (foxglove)

P

Dracunculus (dragon arum)

P S E

Dumb Cane

P S E

Echium

S

Epipremnum (devil’s ivy)

P S E

Euonymus (spindle tree)

P

Euphorbia (spurge)

NB: poinsettia, E. pulcherrima, is not harmful

P S E

Ficus benjamina (weeping fig)

S

Ficus carica (fig)

S E

Foxglove

P

Fremontodendron

S E

Gaultheria section Pernettya

P

Giant Hogweed

severe skin irritant in bright sunlight

Gloriosa superba (glory lily)

P

Glory Lily

P

Hedera (ivy)

P S

Helleborus (Christmas rose, Lenten rose)

P S

Henbane

P

Heracleum mantegazzianum (giant hogweed)

severe skin irritant in bright sunlight

Hippeastrum (amaryllis)

P

Homeria

P

Hyacinthoides (bluebell)

P

Hyacinthus (hyacinth)

S

Hyoscyamus (henbane)

P

Hypericum perforatum (perforate St John’s wort)

P

Ipomoea (morning glory)

P

Iris

P S

Ivy

P S

Kalmia (calico bush)

P

Laburnocytisus ‘Adamii’

P

Laburnum

P

Lagenaria (bottle gourd)

P

Lantana

P S

Larkspur

P

Laurel

P

Ligustrum (privet)

P

Lily-of-the-Valley

P

Lobelia (except bedding lobelia, L. erinus)

P S E

Lupinus (lupin)

P

Lysichiton (skunk cabbage)

P S E

Mandragora (mandrake)

P

Mirabilis (marvel of Peru, four o’clock plant)

P S

Monkshood

P S

Monstera deliciosa (Swiss cheese plant)

P S E

Morning Glory

P

Narcissus (daffodil)

P S

Nerium oleander (oleander)

P

Nicotiana (tobacco)

P

Oleander

P

Opuntia microdasys (bunny ears cactus)

S

Ornithogalum (chincherinchee, starof-Bethlehem)

P S

Papaver somniferum (opium poppy)

P

Passiflora caerulea (hardy passion flower)

P

Peace Lily

P S E

Pernettya

P

Philodendron

P S E

Phytolacca (pokeweed)

P S

Podophyllum (May apple)

P

Poinsettia

P S E

Pokeweed

P S

Polygonatum (Solomon’s seal)

P

Polyscias

P S

Primula obconica (German primula)

S

Privet

P

Prunus laurocerasus (cherry laurel, laurel)

P

Prunus lusitanica (Portugal laurel)

seed kernels are poisonous

Rhamnus (including Frangula) (alder buckthorn, buckthorn)

P S

Rhus verniciflua, R. radicans, R. succedanea, R. diversiloba, R. rydbergii, R. striata, R. toxicarium. R. vernix (Japanese lacquer tree, poison ivy, sumach)

P S

Ricinus communis (castor oil plant)

P

Robinia pseudoacacia (locust tree)

P

Ruta (rue)

severe skin irritant in bright sunlight

St John’s wort

P

Sambucus (except S. nigra) (elder)

P

Schefflera (umbrella tree)

S

Scilla

P

Snowberry

P

Solanum (most species)

P

Solomon’s seal

P

Spanish broom

P

Spartium junceum (Spanish broom)

P

Spathiphyllum (peace lily)

P S E

Spindle Tree

P

Spurge

P S E

Sumach

P S

Swiss Cheese Plant

P S E

Symphoricarpos (snowberry)

P

Symphytum (comfrey, Russian comfrey)

P

Syngonium (arrowhead vine, goosefoot vine)

P S E

Tabernaemontana (crepe jasmine)

P

Taxus (yew)

P

Thornapple

P S

Tulipa (tulip)

S

Veratrum (false hellebore)

P

Vitex (chaste tree)

S

Wisteria

P

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

P

Yew

P

Zantedeschia (calla lily)

P S E

All of these plants are safe to grow provided they are treated with respect. Remember they are ornamental plants, not food plants.

With thanks to the RHS for this vital information