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Pretty Things Can Harm You: Toxic Houseplants

Houseplants can be very beneficial in our lives. They purify and renew our stale indoor air by filtering out toxins, pollutants, and the carbon dioxide we exhale - replacing them with life sustaining oxygen. However, many of our most popular houseplants come from tropical climates where the highest percentage of poisonous plants live.

Toxic houseplants are a problem if you have young kids or pets in the house. Some toxic plants will only cause an annoying skin rash, but others, if ingested, could be deadly. It's best to know which ones you should avoid (before buying one for your friend who just had a baby). Stick to African Violets, Ferns, Gardenia, Jades, or a nice Rubber Tree.

These are toxic to kids and pets:

Aloe vera - It's true that the clear gel from this plant is great for soothing burns. However, ingestion of the latex (yellow juice) just under the skin of the stalk can cause a cathartic (purging) reaction by irritating the large intestine.
Amaryllis - The main irritant is present in small amounts so large quantities of the bulb must be eaten to cause symptoms (diarrhea, nausea, vomiting).
Angel's Wings (Caladium) - Ingestion can cause severe irritation to the mouth and throat, and may also be an irritant to the G.I. tract.

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Croton - Chewing the bark and roots is said to cause burning of the mouth. Eczema was developed in some gardeners after repeated exposure.
Chrysanthemum - Some people will develop contact dermatitis after extended exposure.
Dumbcane - Painful and immediate swelling of the mouth and throat occurs after chewing on this very popular plant (big green leaves with distinctive whitish lines). Speech impediment can occur, sometimes lasting for several days. Avoid eye contact with the juices which can result in intense pain and swelling.
English Ivy - This vine has caused poisoning in cattle, dogs, sheep, and humans. Symptoms of ingestion are difficulty in breathing, convulsions, vomiting, paralysis, and coma. Dermatitis is rare but can be severe with weeping blisters which respond slowly to treatment.
Hydrangea - Poisoning from eating the flower buds has occurred. Symptoms include vomiting, abdominal pains, diarrhea, labored breathing, lethargy, and coma. Sensitive individuals may develop contact dermatitis from handling the plants.
Kaffir Lily - Large quantities must be ingested to cause symptoms of toxicity. General symptoms of poisoning are collapse, diarrhea, paralysis, salivation, vomiting.
Mistletoe - The berries are toxic if eaten.
Philodendron - Can cause poisoning in humans and pets because of the oxalates they contain. General symptoms of poisoning are erythema (reddening and inflammation of the skin) and itchiness.
Poinsettia - Reactions for humans range from dermatitis to nausea and vomiting
Swiss-Cheese Plant - Chewing the leaves can cause immediate symptoms of poisoning such as aphonia (loss of voice), blistering, hoarseness, and irritation of the mouth.

Join The Conversation
MessyBarista MessyBarista 7 years
Well I have to say I consumed some of the necter when my Aloe was blooming and it tasted quite sweet. I do not remember and GI issues. I am about to try the dried out filling of the flower stalk with coffee. Hope all goes well:)
wiggle wiggle 10 years
My youngest is always putting things in her mouth. I put the amarhyllis up extra high - just in case.
vrico2005 vrico2005 10 years
interesting, I kill them too soon anyway!
Butrfly4404 Butrfly4404 10 years
I had my Phil-O (that's his name, seriously) for a year - the only plant my cat won't eat and couldn't figure out why...then I learned it was poisonous. I think for the most part, cats know what they should eat, but not kids!!
Marci Marci 10 years
Wow, what an eye opener. Thanks for the tips.
rubialala rubialala 10 years
It's crazy how many people think that plants are safe just because they are plants. My friend's cat got really sick because it ate some new houseplant that she had. BE CAREFUL, PLEASE!!!
mandiesoh mandiesoh 10 years
:jawdrop: i didnt knw about the aloe vera. i thought the dang plant was good through and through!
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