Get the Facts on Poisonous Plants

— Written By Bill Hanlin and last updated by JoAnne Gryder

The holiday season is upon us and so is the traditional giving of poinsettia plants. A common misconception about poinsettias is that they are poisonous to people when in fact they have very low toxicity to humans. Other plants, however, are toxic and should be kept away from children and pets. A common gifted plant, the amaryllis, is toxic amaryllis-to dogs and cats.

Not every seasonal plant is relatively nontoxic. The berries from mistletoe can cause such symptoms as digestive tract irritation, low blood pressure and a slowing pulse rate. As in most cases with plants, it takes large quantities of berries to produce the above symptoms.

Some plants that we commonly eat parts of can contain parts that we should not eat. The seeds of apples, peaches and plums contain cyangenic glycosides that can be fatal if ingested in moderate amounts. Some parts of vegetable plants like the leaves of potatoes and tomatoes can cause digestive problems.

Plants in and around the home can be fatal if ingested. Ingesting oleander leaves and twigs can cause heart problems and is extremely poisonous. One or two castor beans can be fatal to adults if ingested and the berries of the ornamental plant daphne can be equally as fatal.

Other plants are toxic to our pets. The ASPCA has a website that lists different plants that are toxic to dogs and cats. The list of plants includes aloe that can cause vomiting and tremors, and the bulbs of narcissus, which cause low blood pressure and convulsions in dogs and cats.

A wealth of information can be found concerning potentially poisonous plants. The Carolinas Poison Center has a 24-hour help line at 1-800-222-1222. NC State University also has a very comprehensive list of plants that can be found on the internet at

Written By

Photo of Dr. Bill HanlinDr. Bill HanlinRetired County Extension Director (336) 651-7333 william_hanlin@ncsu.eduWilkes County, North Carolina
Updated on Oct 27, 2016
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