Our gardens create décor for our homes, sources for food, places for entertainment, rest and relaxation, sports and games and playground areas for children and pets. They can add a lot to our property values and the quality of our lives. But most importantly, they must be safe. We need to keep hazardous chemicals properly stored, sharp or dangerous materials out of harm’s way, and areas easy and safe to walk through. Less obvious, though, is the danger that can be posed by the very plants that make our gardens beautiful and useful. Since some plants can be poisonous to children and pets, it is important to be aware of these potentials and use them wisely. Here are some tips about toxic plants to children and pets.
Most plants cause only minor irritations or upsets, but others, especially if swallowed, can be more dangerous. Young children and pets – those young enough to eat whatever is in reach – are usually those most as risk. If you have any poisonous plants in your garden, try fencing them off temporarily and make sure you supervise young ones when they are in the area. Keep young pets penned when you aren’t around to watch them, too. If you are planting a new area, you may prefer to avoid any toxic plants that can harm children and pets.
This list is short. Most of our decorative plants are not easy to digest, so eating any garden plant that is not intended as an edible is best avoided. But here is a list of some of the more commonly used garden plants that could be a problem.
Aloe (some are irritants)
Alocasia (Elephant ears)
Alstroemaeria (can cause dermatitis)
Amarylis belladona (Naked Lady)
Cestrum nocturnum (Night Jessamine)
Convallaria (Lilly of the Valley)
Euphorbia (white milky sap)
Gelseminm (Carolina Jessamine)
Heliotrope (Cherry Pie plant)
Potato (green skin + raw shoots)
Rhododendron and Azalea (leaves)
Ricinus (Castor bean)
Robinia (Locust trees)
Solanum jasminoides (Potato vine)
Schinas (CA pepper tree- dermatitis)
Caladium (juice can cause swelling of mucous membranes)
Christmas Poinsettia (Euphorbia)
Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia)
Diffenbachia (Dumb Cane)
Ivy (can cause dermatitis)
Olea (unprocessed olives are inedible)
Solanum pseudpseudocapsicum (Christmas Cherry)
These are just a few commonly used plants that can be toxic to man and beast. Beware of all the decorative plants in the Solanum and Euphorbia families both indoors and out. Interestingly enough, tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos and eggplants are also in the Solanum family and they, of course, are not poisonous at all!
Avoiding sharp or poisonous plants is one solution to keeping children and pets safe, but we need to keep an eye on behaviors of those unfamiliar with the dangers of our environment. Children love to test things orally, cats seek grass or other natural greens, and some canines chew out of curiosity or boredom. Finding healthy substitutes and keeping children and pets occupied with interesting and challenging things to do will keep children, animals and plants alike, safe and happy. Remember that the younger the child, the shorter the attention span. Safe and happy a minute ago could be boredom and dangerous exploration now. It’s hard to be on top of everything, but at least you can be aware of which plants require extra caution in your home and yard and avoid toxic plants that can harm children and pets
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