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 poisonous plants.

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
212-340-4494
212-POISONS (764-7667)

Long Island Regional
Poison Control Center
Winthrop University Hospital
259 first Street
Mineola, N.Y. 11501
516-542-2323

Hudson Valley Poison Center
Phelps Memorial Hospital
701 North Broadway
Sleepy Hollow, N.Y. 10591
914-366-3030

Nationwide Poison Hotline
All inquiries may use this number to be connected to their area center.
1-800-222-1222

For Pets:
ASPCA National Animal Poison Center
ASPCA-NAPCC
800-548-2423
 

Common Poisonous House Plants
Common Name Scientific Name Toxic Parts Symptoms Produced
Flamingo Flower Anthurium All plant parts contain calcium oxalate  Intense irritation of the mucous membranes produces swelling of the tongue, lips and palate.
Caladium Caladium All plant parts contain calcium oxalate  Intense irritation of the mucous membranes produces swelling of the tongue, lips and palate.
Clivia Clivia All plant parts contain lycorine  Ingestion produces nausea and diarrhea
Dumb Cane Dieffenbachia All plant parts contain calcium oxalate  Intense irritation of the mucous membranes produces swelling of the tongue, lips and palate.
Devil's Ivy Epipremnum syn.Scindapsus All plant parts contain calcium oxalate  Intense irritation of the mucous membranes produces swelling of the tongue, lips and palate.
Poinsettia Euphorbia pulcherrima Milky latex sap contains terpenes and diterpenes Latex causes nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and irritaition if swallowed. Skin contact results in severe dermatological irritation.
Ivy Hedera leaves and berries contain hederin, a saponin Ingestion produces burning sensation in throat and gastroenteritis.
Amaryllis Hippeastrum bulbs contain licorine Ingestion causes nausea and diarrhea
Myrtle Myrtus communis All plant parts contain tannin and volatile oils Ingestion causes nausea and vomiting
Swiss Cheese Plant Monstera Leaves contain calcium oxalate  Intense irritation of the mucous membranes produces swelling of the tongue, lips and palate.
Oleander Nerium oleander All plant parts contain glycosides One leaf is fatal and will disrupt heart function, trigger circulatory failure and lead to death.
Oxalis Oxalis All plant parts contain oxalic acid Ingestion causes nausea and vomiting and kidney inflammation.
Heart-Leaf Philodendron Philodendron scandens All plant parts contain calcium oxalate  Intense irritation of the mucous membranes produces swelling of the tongue, lips and palate.
Aralia Polyscias All plant parts contain saponins Ingestion causes gastrointestinal irritation, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Australian Umbrella Tree Schefflera syn. Brassaia All plant parts contain oxalic acid and saponins  Ingestion causes vomiting, loss of coordination, and other symptoms.
Jerusalem Cherry Solanum pseudocapsicum Fruit contains solanine, a highly toxic glyco-alkaloid Ingestion causes burning sensation in mouth and throat, followed by gastric irritation, fever and diarrhea.
Peace Lily Spathiphyllum All plant parts contain calcium oxalate  Intense irritation of the mucous membranes produces swelling of the tongue, lips and palate.
Arrowhead Vine Syngonium All plant parts contain calcium oxalate  Intense irritation of the mucous membranes produces swelling of the tongue, lips and palate.

 

New York Botanical Garden Plant Information Service
Phone: (718) 817-8681
Telephone Hours 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Monday - Friday.
E-mail: pltinfo@nybg.org
Fax: (718) 817-8956
 

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