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Safe
and Poisonous Houseplants

Many homes contain houseplants or other natural materials to add beauty and interest to the décor. Not only are they attractive but many varieties of houseplants serve as indoor air cleaners as well. Lovely and functional as they may be, some houseplants may present a hazard especially if young children or pets share the household.

 

A poisonous plant is one that contains a chemical substance which produces a harmful reaction in the body of humans or animals when taken in small or moderate amounts. A harmful reaction could include allergic reactions, dermatitis or skin irritation, of internal poisoning. Allergic reactions are not always classified as poisoning and will not be treated as such here. This is because there is a wide range of plants that can cause allergic reactions, and sensitivity to a particular plant varies among individuals. Also, individuals can react in different ways after contact with a poisonous plant depending on their sensitivity level.

 

It is important that houseplant owners be aware of the potential problems that plants with toxic properties might cause. Be aware of the identity of your houseplants and learn if they pose potential threats to children and pets. If you cannot identify a houseplant, call your local Extension Center or the Home and Garden Education Center for assistance. It is also important to realize that many plants need to be consumed in considerable quantities for poisoning to occur. Often poisonous plants taste bitter or acrid and children and pets may not ingest large amounts. Young children, especially, should be taught not to put unknown plants or plant parts in their mouths.

 

If a houseplant or natural decoration is ingested by children or pets and poisoning is suspected, call your family doctor, nearest emergency room or veterinarian immediately. The number for the National Poison Center is (800) 222-1222. They can tell you if a plant is poisonous and what symptoms might be expected with a particular toxin. You will need to provide them with the identity of the plant, however.

 

The following is a list of plants considered toxic. Remember that plants may contain a variety of poisons. They may cause symptoms ranging from a mild stomach ache to serious heart and kidney problems.

 

Common Name                                         Latin Name

Amaryllis                                                    Hippeastrum spp.

Anthurium                                                  Anthurium spp.

Apricot kernels                                          Prunus armeniaca

Azaleas                                                      Rhododendron spp                            

Caladium                                                   Caladium bicolor

Calla Lily                                                   Calla palustrus

Chinese Evergreen                                      Aglaonema spp.

Colchicum                                                  Colcicum autumnale       

Daffodil                                                      Narcissus spp.

Dumb Cane                                                Dieffenbachia spp.

Elephant’s Ear                                            Colocasia antiquorum

English Ivy                                                  Hedera helix

Fishtail Palm                                               Caryota spp.

Holly Berries                                               Ilex spp.

Hyacinth                                                     Hyacinthus orientalis

Jerusalem Cherry                                        Solanum pseudocapsicum

Lantana                                                      Lantana camara

Mistletoe                                                    Phoradendron villosum

Mountain laurel (holiday greens)                  Kalmia spp.

Oleander                                                    Nerium oleander

Philodendron                                              Philodendron spp.

Ranunculus                                                 Ranunculus spp.

Rosary Pea                                                 Abrus precatorius

Schefflera                                                   Schefflera actinophylla

Spathiphyllum                                             Spathiphyllum spp.

Yew (holiday greens)                                  Taxus spp.                       

 

Plants listed below are considered safe and not poisonous. Although eating or touching these plants is unlikely to cause illness, any plant might cause a reaction in certain sensitive individuals.

 

African Daisy                                             Dimorphotheca aurantiaca

African Violet                                             Saintpaulia ionantha

Aluminum Plant                                           Pilea spp.

Baby’s tears                                               Soleiria soleirolii

Bamboo, Golden                                        Phyllostachys aurea

Bird of Paradise                                         Strelitzia reginae

Bird’s Nest Fern                                        Asplenium nidus

Boston Fern                                               Nephrolepis exaltata

Camellia                                                     Camellia sinensis

Cast Iron Plant                                           Aspidistra elatior

Christmas cactus                                         Schlumbergera bridgesii

Coleus                                                        Coleus hybridus

Corn Plant                                                   Draceana spp.

Donkey’s Tail                                              Sedum morganianum

Dracaena                                                     Dracaena spp.

Echeveria                                                     Echeveria spp.

Figs, Weeping and Fiddleleaf**                    Ficus spp.

Geraniums                                                    Pelargonium spp.

Goldfish Plant                                              Columnea spp.

Impatiens                                                     Impatiens wallerana

Jade Plant                                                    Crassula argentea

Japanese Aralia                                            Fatsia japonica

Kalanchoe                                                   Kalanchoe spp.

Lipstick Plant                                               Aeschynanthus spp

Maidenhair Fern                                           Adiantum spp.

Nerve Plant                                                  Fittonia spp.

Orchids                            Cattleya, Epidendrum, Oncidium, Paphiopedilum spp. Norfolk Island Pine                                      Araucaria heterophylla

Palms                                Most nontoxic except fishtail palm, Caryota spp

Peperomia                                                  Peperomia spp.

Piggyback Plant **                                     Tolmiea mensziesii

Poinsettia **                                               Euphorbia pulcherrima

Prayer Plant                                                Maranta leuconeura

Purple Passion Plant                                   Gynura aurantiaca

Sensitive Plant                                             Mimosa puddica

Spider Plant                                               Chlorophytum comosum

Surinam cherry                                           Eugenia uniflora

Swedish Ivy                                               Plectranthus spp.

Wandering Jew **                                     Tradescantia spp.

Wax Plant                                                  Hoya carmosa

Zebra Plant                                                Aphelandra squarrosa

 

**Sap may be irritating.

 

Remember:

Never eat any unknown plant and teach children the same.

  • Keep poisonous houseplants out of reach of children and pets.
  • Learn the names and potential toxicity of all houseplants.
  • Any plant may cause a reaction in certain people. If a plant is eaten, remove the rest from the mouth and rinse the mouth with water. Call your doctor or the emergency room immediately if you suspect a problem.

References:

A Guide to House Plant Poisoning, Prevention and Treatment, University of Utah Health Sciences Center, Salt Lake City Utah, 2000. http://uuhsc.utah.edu/pated/handouts/handout.cfm?id=2167

 

Barkley, Shelley. Poisonous House Plants, Government of Alberta Canada, 2005. http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/webdoc1376

http://www.serenataflowers.com/Poisonous-Flowers-and-Plants

 

 
     
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