It’s the dose that makes the poison. For some plants one bite can be harmful, for other plants it may require eating the entire plant. The same plant in Florida may be less harmful in Washington, or more harmful. Call 1-800-222-1222 if you have a question about a plant’s toxicity.
Plants Poison Prevention
- Identify the botanical (scientific) name of all plants in your home and yard. If unknown, take the plant or a cutting to your local garden store. It is very difficult for the Poison Center to identify plants by phone—however we can still help if an unknown plant or berry is eaten or touched.
- Label each plant in your home with its botanical name. Write the plant name on tape (with water-proof ink) and attach it to the pot. Make a map of the yard with the name and location of each plant.
- Keep seeds, bulbs, harmful plants and plant care products out of reach of children and pets.
- Teach children not to put leaves, flowers, seeds, nuts or berries in their mouth. Remind them to “look but don’t lick—admire but don’t pick.”
- Cooking poisonous plants does not eliminate the poisons. Use only nontoxic plants if you are making tea or medicine. Do not assume that a plant is safe for you if birds or other animals are eating it.
- Never eat wild mushrooms. Some poisonous mushrooms look safe to eat. Mushrooms often grow after rainfall; remove any that are growing where children and pets play.
- Use plant care products safely. Follow all directions and wash your hands after use. Keep products in their original containers. Spray plants on calm days, downwind and away from you, pets, and others. Do not let any pet or person walk on a sprayed lawn until it is dry.
- Wear pants and gloves when working outside. When burning plants, wear a mask and avoid the smoke.
Common plant myths
- Myth: Poinsettias are very poisonous.
Fact: Poinsettias may irritate the mouth, stomach or skin, but they are proven safe.
- Myth: White berries are highly poisonous.
Fact: Most white berries are not poisonous, tasting a few will probably not hurt you, but it is always best not to guess.
- Myth: All plants that are not toxic to humans are safe for animals.
Fact: Some plants that are not toxic to humans are harmful to animals (ex. lilies are toxic to cats but not to people). Some plants toxic to humans are safe for some animals.
- Myth: A poison ivy rash is contagious.
Fact: The rash is a reaction to its oil; once the oil is dry, it cannot be spread to another.
- Myth: Rhododendrons are very poisonous.
Fact: The flower may cause sleepiness and irritate the stomach; it would take a large amount for major effects.
- Myth: Mistletoe berries are deadly.
Fact: The berries only cause a stomachache.
- Myth: All berries that taste bad are poisonous.
Fact: Some toxic berries taste very good, some nontoxic berries taste really bad—you cannot tell if a berry or plant is poisonous just from the taste.
Lists of safe vs unsafe plants are never complete and can be hard to understand. Some toxic plants look like nontoxic plants when trying to name it by a photograph. It is best when buying a plant to check with the store clerk. For plants you currently have, bring them or clippings to your local garden store.
What about plants and my pet?
Pets need protection just like children. Plants and pesticides, as well as other poisons, can cause problems for animals. Some plants that are not harmful to humans may be a danger to some animals. Remember to keep your pets out of harm’s way and poisons out of pet’s way. If your pet does chew on a plant, contact Animal Poison Control at (888) 426-4435.