Poisonous plants in the house and garden

Plants are all around us. Fortunately, 98% of these plants are NOT poisonous. However, families with small children should be aware that a few plants can be hazardous if ingested. According to emergency room reports, the greatest danger to children from eating plants is choking, not poisoning. Older children and adults should be reminded not to eat any plant or plant part not normally considered a food without researching its safety.

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Although some plants can cause illness, few plants are toxic enough to be fatal. Except for a very few highly toxic plants, fatalities usually result only from large doses or allergic reactions. The extent of illness depends on the amount ingested, the sensitivity of the individual to the particular toxin, and the age of the individual. Symptoms of poisoning can vary greatly from one individual to another. Also note that plants that have traditionally been used as herbal remedies can be toxic if not prepared correctly or if too much is taken.

What to do if you suspect someone has become ill from eating a poisonous plant:

Don't panic.

Seek medical attention as soon as possible.

ALWAYS take along a sample (more than one, if possible) of the FULL plant (including root) so the doctor or hospital can identify the actual problem and appropriate treatment can be administered quickly. Place sample in a paper (not plastic) bag, box or cup to prevent from being crushed.tomato plant

If the person has vomited, collect as much as possible to aid doctor in identifying the poison.

Three items should always be available in case of any type of poisoning:

  1. Phone number for a poison control center:
    1. WNC Poison Control: 1-800-542-4225
    2. Carolinas Poison Center: 1-800-848-6946
  2. syrup of ipecac *
  3. activated charcoal *

* Use only under advice of physician. Syrup of ipecac is usually effective only when administered to someone with a full stomach and who is moving about. Never administer any medication by mouth to an unconscious person.

The following is a partial list of the poisonous plants which may be found around homes, landscapes, and natural areas in Western North Carolina. It is not intended to be an all-inclusive list of all known toxic plants or all the possible symptoms that can be caused by these plants.

Amaryllis bulb vomiting, diarrhea
Calla lily all mouth irritation
Dumbcane all mouth & throat irritation & swelling, nausea
Eucalyptus leaves vomiting, diarrhea, paralysis, possible death
Fishtail palm all mouth & throat irritation & swelling
Jerusalem Cherry leaves, berries vomiting, weakness, death possible
Mistletoe berries vomiting, diarrhea, death possible from large doses
Pathos, Devil's Ivy all mouth & throat irritation & swelling
Peace Lily all mouth & throat irritation & swelling
Philodendron all mouth & throat irritation & swelling, nausea
Poinsettia milky sap skin irritation
Rubber plant milky sap skin irritation
Schfflera, Umbrella plant all mouth & throat irritation & swelling, nausea
Potato green potato skins, sprouts vomiting, diarrhea, death possible from large doses
Rhubarb leaves vomiting, kidney damage
Tomato leaves, stems vomiting, weakness

NEXT: Poisonous flowers, trees and other yard plants | Poisonous wild plants in North Carolina

Sources: Potentially Poisonous Plants in the Home and Landscape, Linda G. Blue, Extension Agent, Agriculture - Urban Horticulture, North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Buncombe County Center

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