CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Over the years, dogs and young children prevented me from planting some very pretty plants. As a child, my son ate a tent worm, so I knew that nothing was off limits for him. If only I knew then what I know now ...
I longed for foxglove in my garden. I wouldn't plant it because I just knew my son would eat this Digitalis purpurea and have a heart attack right there in the yard. I loved the spring flowers of Daphne x burkwoodii'Carol Mackie,' but I knew those red fall berries would mean a trip to the emergency room with my baby boy in a convulsion.
Overprotective? Maybe. But that baby boy is now 20, and I've grown up a lot, as well. I now know two important things about poisonous plants:
1. I can plant them and my children won't eat them.
2. Many of the plants I have always had in the garden were just as much a "threat" as the ones I feared, and my kids and dogs survived.
Dr. Alice B. Russell, from North Carolina State University, produced a list, "Poisonous Plants of North Carolina," which discusses many plants that are toxic to humans and animals. Included are some of my favorites.
I'll still avoid those plants with names such as deadly nightshade and death angel. Go figure! But here are just a few species (both houseplants and garden varieties) that can be toxic to humans and animals when ingested:
Asparagus fern, azalea, rhododendron, laurel, many hellebores, beech, bleeding heart, boxwood, burning bush, butterfly weed, caladium, calla lily, cardinal flower, dianthus, clematis, coleus, many ivies,
Poppy, spiderwort, euphorbia, crocus, daffodil, dahlia, delphinium, dieffenbachia, elephant's ear, flowering maple, foxglove, hydrangea, chrysanthemum, geranium, heavenly bamboo, many holly varieties,
Horseradish, hyacinth bean, iris, Japanese boxwood, Jerusalem cherry, jonquil, juniper, lantana, larkspur, liriope, lily-of-the-valley, many sedums and sempervivums, lupine, ginkgo, mandevilla, marigold,
Mayapple, meadow garlic, medicinal aloe, milkweed, morning glory, mother-in-law's tongue, chrysanthemum, narcissus, Ohio buckeye, papaw, peace lily, peach, pee gee hydrangea, primrose, privet,
Queen Anne's lace, rhubarb, sassafras, schefflera, shamrock, shrub verbena, spurge, trillium, tuberous begonia, tulip, vinca, Virginia creeper, wax begonia, allium, anemone, wisteria, artemisia, yarrow, yew and many more.
Funny, serious questions
Dr. Mary C. Smith, of the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, has compiled a list of questions she's received over the years about poisonous plants. The variety of the questions shows the confusion over which plants are good and which are bad, and some are a bit humorous. Visit www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/ to get the answers. Here are a few:
Could eating one small bad mushroom poison me?
What do you think about using tobacco or garlic to get rid of worms in goats?
Do you know of any plants that can cause the vocal cords to be paralyzed?
My daughter made tea from some unknown yellow bell-shaped flowers ... should I drink it?
Could a tea named yerba maté cause a positive drug test?
Is goldenrod (chokecherries, oak trees, pine needles) harmful to sheep or goats?
Is aloe vera toxic to rabbits?
Can the azalea cause previously normal canine sperm to become abnormal in morphology?
Can a black walnut stump poison a garden?
My sister took too high a dose of bloodroot. What will that do to her?
What kind of plants would cause the symptoms of antifreeze poisoning?