Hello, and welcome back to another week with the Aspiring Gardener! This week we’re taking a small look at the many plants that are poisonous and their care. In essence, taking care of poisonous plants is a little different from taking care of less poisonous plants. The main difference lies in the care that must be taken to not poison yourself while taking care of them. Many poisonous plants are classified as such for how they produce chemicals in their leaves or their sap that irritate the skin, causing burns and rashes. Some well-known examples are parsnip, poison ivy, and giant hogweed. Euphorbias, which look like succulents but are not, produce a sap that causes rashes and blistering, with eye exposure resulting in symptoms like irritation, swelling, blurred vision, and temporary blindness. Other similar plants include poison hemlock, lily of the valley, jimsonweed, oleander, false hellebore, and buttercups. Ingestion of any of these plants results in irritation and blistering in the mouth, throat, and intestinal tract and can require hospitalization in severe cases. In order to prevent any contamination, wear long sleeves and long pants, as well as gloves. Do not touch your face or any exposed skin, and if contact does occur, wash the area immediately. Some plants, such as giant hogweed and others in the Apiaceae family, cause phytophotodermatitis, which is when the chemicals produced create rashes after sun exposure. Once phytophotodermatitis is triggered, washing the afflicted area will no longer prevent the symptoms; it will only lessen them.
Outside of skin irritants, many plants are unsafe to eat, including most common houseplants. Snake plants, pothos, philodendrons, lilies, and even aloe vera are all toxic to ingest for humans and pets alike. Common garden flowers such as foxgloves, morning glories, daffodils, irises, marigolds, larkspurs, tulips, and laurels are similarly all poisonous to one degree or another when eaten by humans and animals. A lesson to be learned is that most plants are poisonous in one way or another, but that many are mere irritants to the skin or may cause some stomach trouble when eaten. Some plants are unfairly demonized by this, blowing their irritating qualities out of proportion. A festive example of this is the poinsettia, which, while it can cause gastric upset when eaten and its sap can cause irritation, is not the deadly poison to humans and pets as has been claimed in the past. Caution, however, is generally advised for all poisonous plants, and to keep them out of reach or away from pets and small children to prevent accidents. Check whether the plants in your garden or home have poisonous qualities. While they may not pose a danger to you, they might to any pets or children you have. Stay safe, have fun, and happy planting!