|Plant Information Fact Sheet No. 4
COMMON POISONOUS HOUSEPLANTS
Ingestion of household plants by children under age five is the leading
cause of inquiries to poison control centers nationwide. The best treatment
for poisoning is to prevent it from ever happening. Teach children not
to taste or play with or eat non-food plants both indoors and outdoors.
There are many houseplants which are perfectly safe to grow but as lovely
and harmless as others may appear, they can be toxic and/or dangerous in
other ways. It is important to be as knowledgeable as possible about the
plants growing in your home.
Chemicals concentrated in the cells of roots, leaves, bark and seeds
serve as the plant's defense against insect and animal attack. Some of
these compounds can be toxic, especially if ingested or touched by humans
and can, result in adverse reactions.
A few plant families to be wary of include: the Poinsettia family (Euphorbiaceae),
the Philodendron family( Araceae), the Cactus family (Cactaceae), and the
Tomato family (Solanaceae). Dumbcane (Dieffenbachia), in the Araceae
family, has plant parts which contain oxalate crystals. If ingested these
can cause the tongue to swell so severely breathing stops. Crown of Thorns
(Euphorbia), a succulent in the Euphorbiaceae family has toxic sap
which can be quite irritating to the skin. Among the most poisonous are
the compounds found in Castor Bean (Ricinus communis) and Oleander
(Nerium oleander) which can be deadly if ingested.
STEPS TO ELIMINATE RISK OF POISONING
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY: If a plant has been ingested, identify
the plant, learn how much was eaten, contact your local poison control
center, watch for adverse symptoms, take the plant with you if you are
advised to go to the nearest hospital emergency room.
Always know your
local poison control center contact number.
PLANT IDENTIFICATION: Learn which houseplants are poisonous and
to what degree. A local poison control center can provide information on
Be sure to properly identify and label houseplants with a tag on the
branches rather than a stake that can easily be removed. It is important
to note that plants often have several common names but only one botanical
name. Contact the nearest botanical garden, cooperative extension service,
retail nursery or florist for assistance in proper plant identification
or research horticultural books.
EXPOSURE TO POISONS: Exposure to poison is caused by ingestion
of plant parts and/or by contact to the skin. Ingestion of plant parts
can cause internal poisoning, heart or kidney failure. Skin contact can
produce unpleasant symptoms such as dermatitis and allergic reaction. Brushing
against sharp prickles, spines and thorns can also be extremely painful.
SAFE DISPLAY OF HOUSEPLANTS: Do not grow potentially toxic houseplants
within easy reach of a child. Understand which plants are safe to grow
and display indoors.
PREPAREDNESS: Teach children not to taste or play with or eat
non-food plants both indoors and outdoors.
Even though some plant parts will have a bitter, unpleasant taste, be
prepared for emergencies with first aid supplies handy (a bottle of syrup
of ipecac to induce vomiting). Your poison control center will coach you
on proper administering.
LOCAL POISON CONTROL CENTERS- 12/99
New York City Poison Center
455 First Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10016
Long Island Regional
Poison Control Center
Winthrop University Hospital
259 first Street
Mineola, N.Y. 11501
Hudson Valley Poison Center
Phelps Memorial Hospital
701 North Broadway
Sleepy Hollow, N.Y. 10591
Nationwide Poison Hotline
All inquiries may use this number to be connected to their area
ASPCA National Animal Poison Center