As a parent, one of the many things we learn about is how to protect our children from unnecessary harm. We would do just about anything, to prevent an electric shock, an injury, or an accidental choking. We spend countless hours and dollars, attempting to “baby proof” our homes and our lives. We lock up our cleaning supplies, cover our electrical outlets, remove plush items from cribs, put locks on our toilets, and toss out anything too small for a baby to play with.
If you’ve ever had the sinking feeling, that you have forgotten something very important, you just might be right. Rarely do we see plants included on the many, long lists of baby proofing musts. Most parents have no idea, that many simple plants, flowers, and weeds found in their homes, gardens, and yards are potentially harmful and even fateful if ingested by your little one.
Some of these plants are easy to remove from the home, to avoid the risk of your child ingesting them. Others are not so easy to eliminate, and you may not even realize they are there, until you or your curious baby stumble upon them. Others are common garden plants that you may wish to keep for beauty’s sake or for health benefits. Awareness and diligence are vitally important, to preventing an accidental poisoning or allergic reaction.
Below, we have compiled a list of common plants that are especially dangerous for children. The best way to prevent an emergency is to identify the harmful plants and to keep your child away from them. Next, it is important to recognize the warning signs of poisoning and to get your child to emergency medical services as soon as possible when you suspect that they have eaten something they should not have. Because the treatment methods for plant poisonings vary so widely, it is important not to give your child a drink or to attempt to induce vomiting. In some cases, this can make the condition worse. The best thing you can do is remove any remaining pieces from their mouth and hands, and to get a clipping or a sample of whatever it was that your child ate, to give to the doctor. Contact poison control for detailed instructions on how to handle the symptoms while you are enroute to or are waiting for the arrival of a medical team.
19 Holly Don't Go So Lightly
What is it? Holly plants can be bushes or trees, with many varieties of leaves, flowers, and berries. Most recognizable is the small dark green bush with bright red berries and small white flowers. These plants are often used as hedges or barrier plants, and are preferable for their winter hardiness. Cuttings are commonly used for decoration in homes and indoor or outdoor public places during the Christmas holiday season. The plant is not suitable for use in areas that can be reached by young children. Especially outdoors in the winter, the bright colors of the plant and berries can be intriguing to grown ups and little ones alike. Take precautions that everyone in the vicinity of these bushes understand that the berries and leaves are not edible.
Threat: Holly berries that are consumed are seriously poisonous for people, and especially children. Children can have a strong reaction to swallowing just two tiny berries, 20 berries may be fatal. When the berries or leaves are ingested, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach, and intestinal problems may follow.
Toxic Parts: The berries and leaves.
18 You Say Potato, I Say Potato
What is it? A garden variety plant that grows the starchy edible root, potatoes. The potatoes are not usually visible, as they grow from the roots are buried beneath the soil. The plant, leaves, seeds, and flowers grow above ground. The flowers are usually white, pink, or light purple. Children love to help in the garden, refrain from allowing to play among the plants, but allow to help dig the potatoes up from the soil after the green parts of the plant have been removed.
Threat: The toxin solanine is found in the affected parts of the plant. Even tiny amounts are incredibly dangerous, and can cause delirium, diarrhea, fever, headache, hypothermia, vomiting, stomach pain, slowed pulse, and vision changes.
Toxic Parts: All parts of the plant, leaf, and flower, except for the fully grown potato itself. The sprouts of the potato are also poisonous, as well as any potatoes that are green past the skin.
17 Tomato Plant
What is it? A green viney plant that bears the fruit of tomatoes. The fruit ranges in size from that of a grape to the size of a softball, and are most commonly yellow, orange, or red when ripe. Unripe fruits are green, and when flowering, the blooms are white and yellow.
Threat: Whether or not there is any real threat, is up for debate. Mostly, when a very large amount of leaves (1 pound or more) are consumed, or when a large amount of unripe and uncooked green tomatoes are eaten, there is a risk of illness associated with poisoning. The main reason for concern is because the tomato plant is closely related to both the night shade plant, and the potato plant, which have proven to be toxic. In high concentrations, consumption of the tomato leaves or of the raw, unripe fruit, may lead to gastrointestinal problems, liver, or heart damage.
Toxic Parts: The leaves and raw unripe fruit.
16 Poinsettia Veins
What is it? A traditional holiday plant commonly found in homes, department stores, offices, and churches. It is also widely grown in California, where it is often used in landscaping. Although it comes in a variety of colors, most often it is distinguished as a leafy bush type plant with vibrant red leaves. Many people do not realize that this favorite symbol of Christmas, is poisonous to both humans and dogs. Keep it out of the reach of toddlers, or refrain from bringing them into the home until children are old enough to understand the dangers.
Threat: Touching the sap, can cause a rash in some people. If ingested, a mild stomach ache, vomiting, or diarrhea may follow, but severe symptoms are unlikely. A severe allergy to the poinsettia plant may be more likely if you also have an allergy to latex.
Toxic Parts: The white colored sap that seep from the veins of the plant.
What is it? A wild growing flowering plant that natively grows in Europe, North Africa, Western Asia, and North America. The plant may contain berries and or flowers that are varying shades of green, purple, or black. It is most commonly found in moist, shady areas with limestone rich soil. These strange looking flowers and berries often attract the attention of curious toddlers. However, no part of the plant is safe for a child to handle. It is best to watch carefully for these garden and landscape intruders, and to remove all traces of the plant promptly.
Threat: In an infant or small child, just a few ingested berries can be fatal. However, ingesting any part of plant can cause serious complications, like respiratory distress, severe digestive problems, convulsion, and even death.
Toxic Parts: The entire plant is potentially deadly if consumed, but concentrations are higher in the berries, roots, or leaves of the plant. For children, the shiny purple or black berries are particularly intriguing.
What is it? A deep green leafy vegetable plant with an edible bright red stalk that resembles celery. Sometimes the plant is used in landscaping, but is most commonly raised for its edible properties. While the red stalk is safe to eat both raw and cooked, the large billowy leaves are toxic when consumed and in some people can cause a skin reaction with handling. Children should not be allowed to help pull or handle the plant until they are able to understand the difference between the edible and toxic parts.
Threat: The leaves of this plant contain oxalic acid, which can cause a burning sensation in the mouth and throat, breathing difficulty, diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, weakness, eye pain, red urine, the development of kidney stones or seizures, and the possibility of coma.
Toxic Parts: Only the leaves, particularly upon ingestion, and occasionally with skin contact.
13 Iris Plant
What is it? A flowering bulb plant with beautiful blooms that come in a variety of colors but are most often recognized as purple. This plant is commonly used in gardens and cut flower arrangements. Children should not be allowed to help plant, pick, or handle these plants until you are confident that they will not put any parts into their mouth. The flower itself is the only non-toxic part of the plant. After planting the bulbs or handling the plant, wash hands thoroughly. The bulbs of this plant are the most toxic element and care should be taken not to store them within reach of small children. Children should also not be allowed to dig in the soil near or surrounding the Iris plant.
Threat: When ingested, causes nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, fever, diarrhea, and sometimes rash.
Toxic Parts: Mainly the bulb, but the leaves and stem can also pose a risk.
12 Lily of the Valley
What is it? Lily of the Valley are low to the ground, tiny white bell shaped flowers, with a strong sweet scent. These beautiful and dainty flowers are often used in cut flower arrangements, as well as for dried flower arrangements. They are also regularly used for photography with babies, children, and weddings. Many people have no idea just how toxic they are, and they should never under any circumstances be used with children present. Opt for an artificial variety if you must use them.
Threat: The plant contains traces of deadly convallatoxin. Just one bite from the plant or flower may cause a headache, hot flashes, hallucinations, irritability, and rash. With higher amount of consumption, or with consumption in tiny infants and children, convallatoxin can cause the heart to slow down, and may even lead to coma or death.
Toxic Parts: The entire plant, and especially the leaves.
What is it? An ornamental flowering shrub with bright green foliage and blooms that come in a variety of colors. It is commonly used for landscaping and can be found in gardens and parks. It also grows wild in wooded areas. Handling the plant is not a problem if your children understand not put the leaves or flowers in their mouth. Occasionally, people who not have a honey allergy may have an allergy to honey that is produced by bees that have pollinated Azalea blooms. Often times, the same people will also have pollen related allergies to the plant while it is flowering.
Threat: When ingested, the plant can cause very low blood pressure, low heart rate, and irregular heartbeat. These conditions can be life threatening. Sometimes people are poisoned by “mad honey”, or honey that has been produced through the pollen in azaleas.
Toxic Parts: The leaves and the flowers, and potentially the honey from their flowers.
What is it? A mostly wild plant that is sometimes cultivated and placed in gardens to attract the monarch butterfly. The tall stalk with broad leaves, when in bloom, exhibits blooms that are comparable to orchids in colors of white, pink, or purple. When not in bloom, the plants has egg type pods full of white, hair like seeds. The plant is native to prairies and grasslands, and is also commonly found near bodies of fresh water like ponds, rivers, and lakes. Particularly, the dry pods with cotton like, feathery seeds are particularly interesting and may attract the attention of children. They are not harmful to children by touch, as long as the particles are not ingested or inhaled.
Threat: For American Indians, it is not uncommon to eat the cooked roots, shoots, and buds of milkweed. But, consumption of the uncooked plant in large amounts, may lead to bloating, fever, respiratory distress, dilated pupils, muscles spasms, and even death.
Toxic Parts: The bitter, milky sap found throughout the stems and leaves.
What is it? An evergreen plant with pearl-like white berries. It is commonly used for interior decorating during the Christmas holiday season, and is also used in landscaping for borders and hedging. The entire plant is toxic if consumed and should never be used in a household with young children. When the live or dried versions of this plant are used, all members of the household should be aware that the berries and leaves are not edible. Artificial replicas are a good substitute to use in homes where the plant may be of concern. Parents should be particularly aware of the presence of this plant being used in shopping malls, churches, or other public offices during the holiday season. Keep children away from plants that within their reach.
Threat: Ingestion can cause blurred vision, stomach upset, diarrhea, changes in blood pressure, and even death. Even teas should not be consumed, the berries and leaves are equally as toxic whether consumed raw or cooked.
Toxic Parts: All parts of the plant are toxic, particularly the leaves and berries.
What is it? These shrubs are commonly used in landscaping particularly for their large, colorful, and long lasting blooms that come in shades of pink, blue or white. Young children should be kept away from these flowering shrubs until they can be trusted not to put any part of the plant into their mouth. This popular plant is incredibly dangerous if ingested, as is often found to be drooping towards the ground due its heavy head of flowers. This poses a particular risk to crawlers and toddlers, who can quickly reach the plants, and who are especially susceptible to the toxins due their small body size.
Threat: The plant and the flowers contain hydragin, a poison that will cause shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting, and increased pulse when ingested. In addition, a rapid drop in blood pressure may occur, potentially causing convulsions or death.
Toxic Parts: The entire plant is deadly if consumed, especially the flower buds.
7 Oleander (Pink or Yellow)
What is it? A flowering shrub with pink or yellow flowers. Oleander is especially toxic and is better off removed or relocated if you have young and wandering children. All parts of the plant are dangerous, even the tiny seeds that could be found by a baby or toddler close to the ground. Even simply licking any part of the plant can cause quite a hazard. Some people are sensitive to touching the plant, to inhaling the smoke of a burning plant, or to honey that has been made from pollinated oleander blooms. Never use the sticks or branches of this plant for food skewers. It is important to wash your hands and arms thoroughly after working with oleander plants, to prevent transferring toxins to other surfaces or people.
Threat: When ingested, stumbling and disorientation occur, plus vomiting, diarrhea, irregular heartbeat, dilated pupils, and potentially coma leading to death.
Toxic Parts: Every part of the shrub is toxic, including the seeds.
What is it? A large evergreen tree with shiny, long leaves, flowers, and woody seeds. Some varieties may also have round, coin like leaves with a silvery sheen. The leaves have a strong fragrance. The bark is often rough and blotchy.
Threat: Sometimes the leaves or bark of the eucalyptus plant are boiled and used for medicinal purposes. In the safe, recommended doses, eucalyptus is considered safe for adult. However, medicinal use is not considered to be a safe practice for children. When high amounts of leaves are ingested, it can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, and possibly coma. Eucalyptus oil is especially toxic, and should never be ingested or applied undiluted to the skin or used in any way on children under the age of 2. Children with respiratory allergies should not be exposed to eucalyptus plants.
Toxic Parts: Leaves and bark, as well as the oil.
What is it? A spring bulb flower recognizable for its cup or trumpet like flowering parts. The blooms are most often white, yellow, or a combination of both. For the most part, this spring flower isn’t too dangerous, unless the bulb is consumed. Keep bulbs in storage out of the reach of children. Young kids who are at risk for putting the bulb or flowers in their mouth, should not be allowed to help with planting, moving, or digging up daffodils. It is best to move these flowers away from areas where children play or dig. When relocating gardens take extra precautions not to mix up flower bulbs with onion bulbs, as they can have a similar appearance.
Threat: When ingested, severe irritation of the mouth may occur, as well as vomiting, diarrhea, seizure, and altered heart function. The symptoms are usually not life threatening and resolve within a few hours.
Toxic Parts: All parts of the plant, but mostly the bulb.
4 Mushrooms and Toadstools
What is it? Poisonous and non-poisonous mushrooms or toadstools often grow in the same space. It is very difficult to tell them apart. Therefore, it is best to avoid eating any mushroom that you find outdoors, unless you are certain about what it is. Children are especially likely to find any variety of mushroom growing in the soil, grass, or even gardens. It is important to explain to children that wild mushrooms are not the same mushrooms that they may see being used in the kitchen for cooking purposes. Carefully monitor babies and toddlers who can’t understand the difference. Older kids and adults should never attempt to eat any mushrooms that they are not familiar with.
Threat: Even eating just a tiny amount of some mushrooms can cause illness or death. The symptoms may be delayed for several hours after consumption. Symptoms vary depending on the type of mushroom, the size of the person who has consumed it, and the amount that was ingested.
Toxic Parts: All parts of the plant.
3 Water Hemlock
What is it? This wildflower is commonly found intruding on areas with gardens, meadows, pastures, or streams. Sometimes it is viewed as invasive weed. It is characterized by small white clusters of flowers in umbrella like clusters. Be careful not to confuse this plant with similar looking plants like wild parsnips, herbs, or medicinal plants. Many accidental poisoning occur by ingesting an incorrectly identified plant.
Threat: The USDA calls this “the most violently toxic plant that grows in North America." This plant is capable of causing death within 15 minutes of ingestion. It contains a poison called cicutoxin that quickly attacks the central nervous system, causing severe seizures and convulsion that lead to suffocation and heart attack, causing death.
Toxic Parts: The whole plant, especially the roots of a young plant. The most poisonous element is the brown or straw colored liquid that is released when the plant is broken or cut.
2 Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac
What is it? All three of these are vines with prominent leaves that grow in the woods or in marshy areas. Sometimes they appear as a loose vine growing on the ground or around tree trunks, or they may grow as a shrub or a tiny tree. While they are most common in forests, they can also be found along fences, among other bushes, or growing up trees in your yard. Take care to wear long sleeves, pants, shoes, and socks when making treks into wooded or marshy areas. Point the plants out to your kids, so they are not tempted to pick the often easy to reach, and sometimes brightly colored leaves. Wash any potentially contaminated clothing promptly, and shower before resuming normal activities throughout the home.
Threat: The plant releases a long lasting oil, urushiol that causes an itchy, blistering rash if it touches the skin. The oil can be released by direct contact, as well as by simply brushing against the plant. The oils can also be transferred to people from clothing and pets that are contaminated with the toxin.
Toxic Parts: Any part of the plant, especially the leaves.
1 Other Harmful Ones
This list is only a small compilation of the potentially harmful plants. There are hundreds or even thousands of mild to lethally dangerous plants that pose a risk to children and humans. Is it important for the safety of your family, and especially for young children, to be aware of all of these types of plants. Young children should not be left unsupervised to play and explore outside. Curious children with small body mass are often more susceptible to the toxins found in poisonous plants. They are more likely to put things into their mouths that older children and adults who not consider fit for consumption. Always monitor your children, teach them about the dangers of eating non-food items. Always be aware of potentially harmful plants at home, present in indoor planters, in parks you frequent, and in new locations alike.
For a detailed list of all toxic plants and first aid treatment, please view Poison.org