Pretty Poisons

Written by Chris Campbell

When shopping for plants, most of us look at what color it blooms or how big the plant grows when we choose what we like for our gardens. Rarely do we stop to consider whether or not the plant has a reputation for being poisonous or toxic. In fact, many of the most popular plants used in landscapes today have the potential to make our children or pets quite ill or, at a minimum, irritate the skin when touched. Each year approximately 100,000 people contact poison control about plant exposure.

Poisonous plants differ from each other by the degree to which they are toxic, their parts that contain the toxicity as well as how that toxicity manifests in us. Some poisonous plants are deadly while others may only cause unpleasant symptoms. However, due to variations in people’s metabolism, age, body weight, etc., one never really can be sure what effect the poison will have or to what degree.

The fact that your garden may, and very probably, contains toxic plants should not cause you to panic and immediately remove them. However, identifying what plants you have in your landscape and knowing their potential toxicity is important information to have. Many plants considered toxic can cause little harm and shouldn’t be the basis for any concern. Nonetheless, in the event that something is accidentally ingested by a child or pet, the more information you can provide your vet or poison control the better they will be able to help you.

There are a number of websites that contain information regarding plants and their effects on pets, here are only a few of the most toxic plants to keep in mind: Azalea, Deadly Nightshade, Monkshood, Rosary Pea, Horse Chestnut, some Mushrooms, Prickly Poppy, Daphne, Horsetail, Foxglove, Jessamine, Castor Bean, Pokeweed, Lupine, Henbane, Ground Ivy, Bracken Fern, Elderberry, Bloodroot, Sago Palm, Oleander, Mandrake, Datura, Wisteria, several Poppies and Yew.

For more information with a detailed listing of plants see the ASPCA website at