#SeasonalSafety: Poisonous Plants

What kinds of holiday plants are poisonous?

Holly Berries. In small doses, the red berries of the holly plant are not fatal. However, the berries, along with the bark, stems, and seeds, are dangerous if consumed in higher doses. The berries contain theobromine, which is an alkaloid similar to those found in caffeine. Theobromine is also found in chocolate, which means that holly berries are poisonous for dogs, too.

Poinsettias. These bright red flowers are beautiful and festive, but should not be eaten. While not incredibly poisonous, they may cause vomiting or nausea. If rubbed on the skin, the leaves can also cause a rash.

Mistletoe. Good for kissing under, but not for eating! Mistletoe actually refers to several types of plants, but all of them are dangerous for people and pets. One prominent type, called phordendron, contains a toxin which causes nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and changes in blood pressure. Like holly berries, mistletoe is generally not dangerous if accidentally consumed in small doses, but if a child eats mistletoe, you should seek medical advice.

Amaryllis and Daffodils. Amaryllis bulbs, along with daffodil and narcissus bulbs, are common holiday gifts. Due to cold weather, they often end up in a vase inside, rather than outdoors. Eating the bulbs, and to a lesser extent, the leaves of these plants, can cause abdominal pains, cardiac troubles, and even convulsions.

Jerusalem Cherry. They may look like cherry tomatoes, but they’re much more dangerous. Jerusalem cherries are a species of nightshade, and can cause gastric upset or vomiting if eaten. They are not usually life-threatening to humans, but can cause death in pets.

Festive but Dangerous

As you can see, some of the most prominent holiday plants are also the most dangerous ones! Keep plants out of reach of pets and children. Teach your children not to eat any berries or leaves, even if they look edible and inviting. Have the number for the poison help line on hand, and know what to do if a poisoning emergency should arise.

There are plenty of other good things to eat during the holidays, so avoid these plants!


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