Harmful Plants There are many types of harmful plants that can affect us. The one we know best in our area is poison ivy, Rhus radicans. It is poisonous to the touch




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Harmful Plants
There are many types of harmful plants that can affect us. The one we know best in our area is poison ivy, Rhus radicans. It is poisonous to the touch, because all parts of the plant contain an oil that causes an allergic reaction in many people. There are however many more harmful plants that we should be aware of as leaders. Below is a list of the more common do not touch plants in our area. It is by no means an inclusive list.
Do not eat any wild plant unless you have been told by an expert that it is safe to eat. Just because you see an animal eating a plant part does not mean it is safe for you to eat it. Remember, birds can sit on a poison ivy vine and eat the berries without any reaction at all! Get medical help quickly when you see an allergic reaction starting, or if symptoms of internal poisoning are noticed. Know where the local hospital is, and the telephone number of the closest poison control center.
A poison emergency kit should contain: 1. the Poison Center phone number for your area, 2. syrup of ipecac and 3. activated charcoal.
The Illinois Poison Center telephone number is: 1-800-942-5969; TDD access at 312/906-6185. They also have a website at: http://www.mchc.org/ipc/ipc.html.

Note: This site includes links to other poison centers across the nation.


Syrup of Ipecac. ALWAYS call your Poison Center or a doctor BEFORE using Syrup of Ipecac to get directions for using it. Syrup of Ipecac is an over-the-counter drug available at your local drugstore that is used to make a person vomit. It is not useful for every poisoning, and the amount of syrup of ipecac needed varies depending on the age and size of the person.
Activated Charcoal. ALWAYS call the Illinois Poison Center or a doctor BEFORE using activated charcoal to get directions for using it. Activated Charcoal is an over-the-counter drug available at your local drugstore. used to "adsorb" or bind with poisons. It is supplied in a number of forms. Ask the pharmacist for help in selecting a product. The Illinois Poison Center recommends either a granulated form (that you would mix with water or soda) or a pre-mixed water solution. Illinois Poison Center recommends products that do not contain sorbitol. Like Syrup of Ipecac it is not useful for every poisoning.
Some poisonous plant websites are:

U. of North Carolina: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/poison.htm

Cornell U.: http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/plants.html

U. of Illinois: http://www.library.uiuc.edu/vex/vetdocs/toxic.htm

U. of Indiana: http://vet.purdue.edu/depts/addl/toxic/cover1.htm

Canadian Poisonous Plants: http://sis.agr.gc.ca/pls/pp/poison?p_x=px

The following plants are harmful to touch. Some, like poison ivy can cause an allergic reaction that may include redness, swelling, itching, and blister formation. The reaction will vary with exposure and susceptibility, it can occur quickly or take as long as a week to fully develop. Others like the nettles can cause a stinging or burning sensation with redness that is painful but relatively short lived.
Poison ivy (Rhus radicans) is common in a wide variety of habitats from woodlands to sand dunes to wooded floodplains. It is native to western and eastern US and southern Canada. It has a variable habit of growth, it can be a ground cover, vine, small bush or even look like a small tree; aerial roots develop when it climbs up a tree or fence, they are very fine, dense, and hair-like. Its leaves are alternate 4"-14" long, compound with 3-leaflets 2"-4" long. The leaf surface may be covered with fine hairs or smooth and glossy, leaflet shape is also variable from smooth edged with no teeth to coarsely toothed like an oak leaf. Fall color ranges from yellow to bright red. Poison ivy fruit are small, white berry-like drupes in fall (they can persist through the winter into the spring), stems are covered with a fine layer of short, tan hairs.

A picture may be found at: http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/fa04/fa04086.jpg


There are two forms of poison-oak, a western and an eastern version. Neither form grows in our area. W hat we call poison oak is really a coarsely toothed form of poison ivy.
Western poison oak (Rhus diversilobum) is usually a shrub, 3-7 ft (1-2 m) high, sometime vining and up to 50 ft (15 m). Its leaves are alternate, 1-3" long, pinnately compound with 3 leaflets, each leaflet is rounded, with a blunt tip, a glossy upper surface, and an edge that is irregularly toothed. Leaves may be highly colored (red and gold) in fall. Fruit is a 5 mm diameter, berry-like drupe, white or cream colored that are in open clusters on the plant.

A picture may be found at: http://www.orst.edu/dept/ldplants/rhdi1.htm


Eastern poison oak (Rhus toxicodendron) is a vine or ground cover, and looks very much like our native poison ivy, except the edges of its leaves are more deeply and coarsely toothed. Its leaves are alternate, 4"-14" long, pinnately compound with 3 leaflets, each leaflet 2"-4" long, covered with fine hairs, leaflet shape is variable, and fruits are open clusters of small cream-white berry-like drupes.

A picture may be found at: http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/fa04/fa04087.jpg


Poison sumac (Rhus vernix) is rare in our area. It is typically found in bogs, acid wet places, and shaded marsh borders in Lake and McHenry counties in Illinois; bogs in the dune areas in northern Indiana; and scattered wetland areas of southwestern Michigan. It is a small tree with alternate leaves that are 7-12" long, each leaf has 7-13 leaflets each 2-4" long, they are smooth and may have a reddish leaf stalk, fruits are open drooping clusters of yellowish-gray berry-like drupes.

A picture may be found at: http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/dcs420/b/hdw08069914s.jpg

In addition to the above plants that can cause severe allergic reactions that could result in a trip to the doctor or hospital, the following three plants are also hazardous to touch, and are common enough that you should be aware of them.
Wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) is a member of the carrot family. It is a European cousin of the cultivated parsnip. It is found as an abundant weed in pastures, vacant lots, and mowed rights-of-way. Contact with the plant sap, in strong sunlight can cause skin redness, itching, and blisters to form in a reaction that is similar to poison-ivy. It looks like a 3-4 ft tall, coarse, wild carrot. It has a stout ribbed stem, and large, coarse, parsley-like leaves. Its flowers are arranged in a large, flat-topped cluster at the top of the plant stem. Individual flowers are small and yellowish-green.

A picture may be found at: http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/schoepke/pas_sa_2.jpg


Tall nettle (Urtica dioica ssp. gracilis or U. procera) is frequent along streams, and in moist waste places. It is a tall plant with long narrow leaves, covered with very fine hairs that act like small needles. Contact with this plant will cause redness and a very strong stinging or burning sensation which usually will go away after an hour or so.

A picture may be found at:



http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/Urticdi.htm
Wood nettle (Laportea canadensis) is an abundant broad-leaved plant that grows on shaded floodplains and in moist woods. It is a tall plant with broad leaves, covered with very fine hairs that act like small needles, usually found on floodplains and in wet disturbed woodlands. Contact with this plant will cause redness and a very strong stinging or burning sensation which usually will go away after an hour or so.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/Laporca.htm



Apples (Malus spp.) common woodland, orchard, and landscape trees belong to the rose family. They have a variety of leaf shapes and edible fruits. The bark, leaves, and seeds of these plants contain 'amygdalin' which breaks down in stomach acid to form cyanide. Backyard 'tea parties' have had tragic results when leaves from the common black cherry have been used.

A picture may be found at: http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/bleeker/holland/malusyl1.jpg


Apricots, cherries, peaches, and plums (Prunus spp.) are other cousins of the apple in the rose family. They are common woodland, orchard, and landscape trees with a variety of edible fruits. Like the apple the bark, leaves, and seeds of these plants contain 'amygdalin' which breaks down in stomach acid to form cyanide.

A picture may be found at: http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/bleeker/holland/prunpad1.jpg


Azaleas (Rhododendron spp.) are common as a garden shrubs and potted house plants. All parts of the plant are poisonous. Cattle have died from eating the leaves. A tea from the leaves can change your blood pressure. A child can sicken by sucking on the flowers for the sweet but poisonous nectar. Honey from its flowers can be poisonous.

A picture may be found at: http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/mi02/mi02009.jpg


Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus Oriental bittersweet and C. scandens Climbing bittersweet) locally common along woodland edges and in partial shade clambering on other shrubs or trees. More commonly found as a landscape plant. Climbing and twining vines with 4" long pointy-tipped leaves and reddish fruits and bright orange seeds in fall.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/images/CelasSc6.htm


Buckeyes and Horse-chestnuts (Aesculus spp.) are common eastern US forest trees and urban street trees, with palmately compound leaves and large, dark-colored seeds with light-colored "eyes". Seeds can kill if they are eaten. The crushed leaves and branches are poisonous, and have been used to poison and stun fish in the water.

A picture may be found at: http://dcwi.com/~wench/dendrology/hippocastanaceae/aesculus_glabra/aesculus_glabra_leaves_lg.html



Buckthorns (Rhamnus spp.) widespread. These small to medium sized shrubby trees are common in landscapes, and escaped from cultivation into woodlands. There are several different species, but most have dark green leaves with finely saw-toothed edges and black berries. Berries and leaves have a strong laxative effect when eaten. One species is called Rhamnus cathartica, and it lives up to its name.

A picture may be found at: http://www.lib.uconn.edu/CANR/plsci/mbrand/r/rhacat/rhacat05.jpg


Daphne (Daphne spp.) are small to medium sized shrubs with attractive foliage and fragrant flowers that are used in home landscapes. They have deciduous or evergreen leaves, and small clusters of white, pink, or purple flowers. The attractive red berries contain a poisonous glucoside. As few as ten (10) small fruits when eaten can kill a child. When foliage is crushed on the skin, some people will develop redness and blisters.

A picture may be found at: http://pharm1.pharmazie.uni-greifswald.de/systematik/7_bilder/pios/pio00729.jpg


English ivy (Hedera helix) a common ground cover, a climber of walls and trees. It is an attractive foliage vine in the landscape. All parts are poisonous and will give you severe stomach pain. As few as 2 seeds can make children very sick, and can kill cockroaches.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/images/picts/HederHe6.jpg


Pears (Pyrus spp.) are other cousins of the apple in the rose family. They are common orchard and landscape trees with a variety of edible fruits. Like the apple the bark, leaves, and seeds of these plants contain 'amygdalin' which breaks down in stomach acid to cyanide.

A picture may be found at: http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/fa03/fa03035.jpg


Privet (Ligustrum spp.) are common shrubs in home landscapes often used for hedges. It frequently escapes into woodlands. It has opposite shiny leaves, sweet smelling yellowish-white flowers and bluish-blackish berries that are poisonous. Children have died after eating privet berries.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/Ligusja.htm


Rhododendron (Rhododendron spp.) see Azalea
Yew (Taxus spp.) a very common evergreen in home landscapes that is used as a foundation planting. All parts of this attractive plant are poisonous, especially the hard green seeds that are enclosed in a bright red, fleshy "berry-like" cup which is attractive to small children.

A picture may be found at: http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/mi10/mi10015.jpg



Baneberry - Red baneberry (Actaea rubra), and White baneberry (Actaea pachypoda) are woodland wild flowers of the Buttercup Family that grow in mesic rich woods. These perennials are about 2 ft. tall, have 2-3 parted leaves, and are topped by a showy cluster of white flowers in the spring. Their attractive fruits are conspicuous in mid- to late-summer.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/Actaesp.htm


Bittersweet nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) is a common weed of yards, gardens, fencerows, and thickets, as well as native woodland communities. It is a twining vine with purple and yellow flowers, potato-like leaves, and green and red fruits. Eating any part of the plant results in a purgative effect.

A picture may be found at: http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/schoepke/at_bel_5.jpg


Black nightshade (Solanum americanum or S. nigrum) is a common weed of cultivated areas, especially gardens. It is 1 to 2 ft tall with smooth, coarsely toothed leaves and small white flowers and small, black berries.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/images/picts/SolanAm3.jpg


Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) this erect perennial herb is found in rich moist woods. It is about 1½ to 2 ft. tall with a single 3 parted compound leaf and yellowish to purplish-green flowers in spring. Its blue berries can kill.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/images/picts/CauloTha.jpg


Camas lily (Zigadenus spp.) these are uncommon in our area in the wild, but are commonly found in perennial gardens. They are 1 to 3 ft. tall spring to summer blooming members of the lily family. They have long grass-like leaves and tall flower spikes of small whitish flowers. Their small bulbs can be mistaken for wild onions. All parts are deadly poison, causing severe stomach upset, difficult breathing, and death.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/images/picts/Zigadenus.jpg


Dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium, cannabinum & sibiricum) common plants of open woods and waste places, especially along rail road rights-of-way. These perennials native plants have smooth opposite leaves, arching stems, small pinkish flowers, and paired, long, thin seed pods. They were used by native Americans for their fibers which were used to make twine and rope. They contain a chemical similar to the heart medicine 'digitalis'.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/images/picts/ApocyCa2.jpg



False hellebore (Veratrum viride) common to our north. A coarse tall herb from a stout rootstock with large broad leaves and a cluster of greenish flowers at the tip of the 5 ft. tall stem. This member of the lily family contains a narcotic-like drug that works on the central nervous system, slowing the heart and lowering blood pressure. It also damages the digestive system.

A picture may be found at: http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/mi08/mi08085.jpg


Horse nettle (Solanum carolinense) this common weed of disturbed areas is a small spreading plant with stout prickles on its stems and leaves. Its attractive yellow to orange, tomato-like berries are poisonous.

A picture may be found at: http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/hdwimages1/solanca1.jpg


Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) a common spring wildflower of moist woodlands. 1 to 2 ft. tall leaves with 3 large lobes hide the purple-streaked pulpit-like flower. It has irritating sharp crystals of oxalic acid in its stems, roots, and bright red fruits. When eaten your mouth will burn. They irritate the throat lining which can then swell shut.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/images/picts/ArisaTr.jpg


Jimson weed (Datura stramonium) a frequent weed of cultivated fields and farmyards. This member of the potato family has large white tubular flowers and large prickly fruit. All parts of the plant contain 'atropine' and 'hyoscyamine' which depress the central nervous system causing paralysis and death. Children who suck on the sweet flowers can die.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/Daturst.htm


May-apple (Podophyllum peltatum) a common spring wild flower in our woods with one or two leaves that look like 8-10" diameter umbrellas. It has one or two white flowers that droop under its umbrella in April, and fruits that look like small green apples in May. Eating the green 'apples' results in a purgative effect.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/Podoppe.htm



Monkshood (Aconitum spp.) mid- to late-summer blooming perennials of the rich woodland of the eastern U.S. These members of the Buttercup family have deeply cut, 5-parted leaves with many beautiful hooded purple flowers, and roots that can be mistaken for horse radish. They contain the alkaloid 'aconitine' that is a heart depressant which has been used as an arrow, wolf and rat poison. The garden Monkshood is just as deadly.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/Aconisp.htm


Moonseed (Menispermum canadense) a common twining vine of rich moist woods. It has large leaves with 5 blunt or rounded points, and small black berries. The flattened seed inside the berry looks like a small moon with a notch cut out of one side.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/Menisca.htm


Mushrooms (many genera) Unless you are an expert in identification, the only safe mushrooms to eat are those found on your grocery shelves.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/images/picts/AmaniVi.jpg


Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) is a member of the carrot family and is one of our most poisonous plants. It is infrequent in our area but can occur in large colonies when it is present. This plant can grow to 9 ft. tall, and has a green stem with purplish spots. It looks a lot like a very tall Anise or Parsley plant. Children have died using the hollow stems as pea-shooters. The active poison is 'coniine' that affects the motor nerves, you are paralyzed but coherent until the end. A brew from this plant was given to Socrates to drink at his execution by the ancient Greeks.

A picture may be found at:



http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/schoepke/con-ma-1.jpg
Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) an occasionally abundant weed in disturbed habitats from marshes to woodlands. It is a large plant reaching 9 ft. tall, with long spreading stems that arch and 8 in. long clusters of dark purple berries that droop from the tips. While the young shoots have been used as greens, the 'poke salad' of song, all parts of the adult plant are poisonous, especially the large root. Eating any part of the adult plant can cause convulsions and death.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/Phytoam.htm



Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is one of our commonest vines of woodlands. It is the 'leaflets-5 let it thrive' plant of the poison ivy ditty. It has a palmately compound leaf with 5 to 7 leaflets, and has dark purple-black berries in the fall. 12 of these berries can kill a guinea pig.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/images/picts/ParthQu2.jpg


Water hemlocks (Cicuta bulbifera and C. maculata) are other poisonous members of the carrot family. Any part of these plants are violently poisonous. They are commonly found in wet prairies, moist woodlands, and along wet roadside ditches. Their stems are up to 6 ft. tall with dissected compound leaves like carrots, and have many clusters of flowers at the tips of the stalks. Eating any part of these plants can cause severe stomach disturbance, intense convulsions, and often death. Children have died using the hollow stems as pea-shooters. One mouthful of the white carrot-like root can be fatal.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/Cicutma.htm


White Snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum) is common in woodlands, and along woodland streams. It occasionally may be a weed in wildflower gardens. This member of the Aster family has clusters of small white flowers, and green leaves that have coarse saw-toothed edges. When people drink the milk produced by cows that have eaten this plant they get "milk sickness." Abraham Lincoln's mother died from this disease.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/Eupatru.htm



Arums (many species) many common house and garden plants belong to this family. They may be vines or perennials, have large or small leaves, but all have flowers that are similar in structure to jack in the pulpit. Members of this family contain sharp crystals in their tissues that when eaten cut into the mouth and throat causing painful burning and swelling. The swelling sometimes is severe enough to make it impossible to breath.

Pictures may be found at: http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/bleeker/holland/cryptoc1.jpg

and

http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/Arisatr.htm

Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is a tall, wispy fern-like plant found growing in our gardens, grown commercially, and is also found growing wild throughout our area under telephone lines, along fences and scattered in pastures and waste places. While the young spears are a well-known vegetable, eating the berries of the mature plant can cause stomach upset.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/images/picts/AsparOf.jpg and



http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/hdwimages2/hdwt2-80.jpg

Autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale) is a colorful garden bulb that has large strap-like leaves in spring and its colorful crocus-like flowers in the fall. All parts of this plant contain 'colchicine' which can cause chromosome damage.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/images/picts/ColchAu.jpg


Belladona see deadly nightshade
Calla lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) (see Arums) is a tropical potted plant with 10-18" long, heart- to arrow-shaped leaves with attractive large white or colored flowers.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/images/picts/ZanteAe.jpg


Castor bean (Ricinus communis) is a member of the spurge family, and is one of our deadliest garden plants. It is a large, stout annual plant grown for its colorful leaves and flowers. It has large palmately compound leaves 12" to 16" across. Its seeds are about ¼" to ½" across. Eating one of its attractive seeds can kill a child. Eating three can kill an adult.

A picture may be found at:



http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/fa04/fa04039.jpg

Christmas and Lenten rose (Helleborus spp.) are members of the buttercup family that are commonly planted in flower gardens. It is a low perennial herb with cut leaves that bloom early in the spring. The roots and leaves contain two very toxic glycosides that cause vomiting, convulsions, interrupted breathing, and death. Some people develop a rash after getting the sap from this plant on their skin.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/Helleni.htm

and

http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/Helleor.htm
Crown-of-thorns (Euphorbia splendens) (see Spurges) is a common house plant with pinkish begonia-like flowers and stout stems with small leaves and very long sharp thorns. The white milky sap is VERY poisonous, use care, wash your hands afterwards.

A picture may be found at: http://www.thegardenhelper.com/022365.JPG


Cut-leaved philodendron (Monstera deliciosa) (see Arums) is a common house and office plant. It has very large (3' long) leaves that are deeply cut along the edges.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/images/picts/MonstDe1.jpg


Daffodil (Narcissus) is a common spring bulb used widely in the home landscape. It contains poisonous alkaloids in all parts of the plant that can cause stomach upset, poor breathing and when eaten in large amounts death. Its bulb can be mistaken for a wild onion.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/images/picts/Narci_5.jpg


Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) is another member of the potato family. It has potato-like leaves, but has large purplish-red flowers and small black berries. All parts of the plant contain 'atropine' and 'hyoscyamine' which depress the central nervous system causing paralysis and death. Its berries are especially tempting because they are sweet tasting. As few as 3 berries can kill a child. In the past small doses were used to dilate the eyes of women making them more beautiful, thus its name Bella + donna which means 'beautiful woman.'

A picture may be found at: http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/schoepke/at_bel_5.jpg


Delphiniums and Larkspurs (Delphinium sp.) is another poisonous member of the buttercup family. All parts of this common and attractive summer blooming garden plant are deadly, especially the young foliage and mature seeds. In the wild sheep, goats, and cattle have died after eating these plants.

A picture may be found at: http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/fa01/fa01019.jpg



Dumbcane (Dieffenbachia spp.) are common house plants in the arum family. They have large broad leaves and stout stems. (see Arums for effects.)

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/images/picts/DieffSp.jpg


Euphorbia see spurge.
Ferns (many genera) foliage of many mature ferns are poisonous. They act as emetics and purgatives, and can cause convulsions and death.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/Pteriaq.htm


Four-o'clock (Mirabilis jalapa) is a tropical plant used in the flower garden. It is an attractive plant with opposite leaves and showy flowers of white, yellow, red, or purple that open in the afternoon. Eating any part of this plant can cause severe stomach upset and pain.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/images/picts/Mirab_ja.jpg


Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) is a tall member of the snapdragon family. It is a spectacular perennial with tall spikes of long tubular flowers with spots. All parts of the plant contain the drug 'digitalis', which is a cardiac glycoside. It slows and strengthens heart muscle contractions in small doses. In higher doses it stops the heart causing death.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/images/picts/DigitPu2.jpg


Henbane (Hyocyamus niger) another member of the potato family. It is a coarse, hairy, strong-scented plant to 3 ft. tall with large leaves, and showy flowers at the branch tips. All parts of the plant contain 'atropine' and 'hyoscyamine' which depress the central nervous system causing paralysis and death.

A picture may be found at: http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/schoepke/hyo_ni_1.jpg


Hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis) is a commonly planted spring garden bulb, and spring pot plant. All parts of the plant contain poisonous alkaloids that can cause stomach upset, poor breathing and eventually death.

A picture may be found at: http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/fa08/fa08027.jpg


Iris (Iris spp.) are common garden flowers and wildflowers of wet places. The leaves and underground stems contain an irritating substance that can cause severe digestive upset.

A picture may be found at: http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/bleeker/holland/irispse1.jpg



Larkspur see Delphinium
Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) all parts of this common ground cover are poisonous, especially the attractive bright red berries.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/images/picts/ConvaMa.jpg


Jonquil see Daffodil
Milkweed (Asclepias spp.) are widespread wildflower and garden plants. They contain very strong poisons that are emetic and purgative. In larger quantities they cause convulsions and death. A handful of leaves from some western milkweeds can kill a sheep. These plants are most famous for being the preferred food plant of young monarch butterflies.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/images/picts/AscleSy.jpg


Monkshood (Aconitum spp.) are mid- to late-summer blooming perennials of the flower garden. These members of the Buttercup family have deeply cut, 5-parted leaves with many beautiful hooded purple flowers, and roots that can be mistaken for horse radish. They contain the alkaloid 'aconitine' that is a heart depressant which has been used as an arrow, wolf and rat poison.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/images/picts/AconiNe2.jpg


Narcissus see Daffodil
Oleander (Nerium oleander) is an attractive house or office plant in our area. It is a shrub with bushy stems and stiff, narrow leaves. Its pink, red or white flowers are showy. The poison in oleander is deadly, and acts quickly. Eating or sucking any part of the plant is dangerous. One child died after using a peeled oleander twig to skewer and cook a hot dog.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/images/picts/NeriuOl8.jpg


Philodendron, Philodendron) and Pothos, Pothos) (see Arums) are both common house and office plants. They are climbing vines with 3"-5" long heart-shaped leaves. Philodendrons have glossy green leaves while Pothos have leaves typically streaked with yellow and white.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/images/picts/PhiloSc.jpg



Poinsettia (Poinsettia) is a common plant in many homes during the holiday season. It is a tropical shrub with large, alternate leaves, usually with large teeth on the margin. The large showy "flowers" are actually colorful leaves that are beneath the small yellowish true flowers. Contact with the milky sap can cause skin irritation and redness. All parts of the plant can cause cramping, vomiting, and diarrhea when eaten.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/images/picts/EuphoPu5.jpg


Rhubarb (Rheum spp.) is a large-leaved garden vegetable with several relatives that are also used as foliage plants in the landscape. While the red leaf stalks are edible all other parts of the plant are poisonous, and can cause kidney failure and death.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/images/picts/RheumRh.jpg


Rosary pea (Abrus precatorius) is commonly seen as bright red seeds with a black spot that have been drilled and strung together to make a bracelet or necklace. These attractive seeds are deadly, sucking on even one of these small seeds has caused death.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/images/picts/AbrusPr.jpg


Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) is a small, early blooming garden bulb that has greenish-white nodding flowers in early spring. All parts of this plant are poisonous.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/images/picts/GalanNi4.jpg


Snow-on-the-mountain (Euphorbia marginata) (see Spurge) is a common garden foliage plant with milky sap and white margined leaves.

A picture may be found at:



http://www.lter.umn.edu/pjslides/euphorbia-marginata.jpg
Spurges (Euphorbia spp.) are common foliage plants in the garden with milky sap and colorful leaves and flowers. Contact with the sap can cause the skin to become inflamed producing severe sores and rashes in some people. If eaten they can cause the throat to swell shut causing death.

A picture may be found at:



http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/schoepke/eup_cy_5.jpg

Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) an early spring blooming bulb with clusters of upright star-like white flowers that have a green stripe on the back of each petal. All parts of the plant are poisonous. Cattle and sheep have died after eating the small bulbs.

A picture may be found at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/Ornitum.htm



Ed Hedborn, April 30, 2016



Troop 109, Woodridge, IL


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