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Watching Out for Poisonous Garden Plants

Sometimes the most beautiful, delicious or enticing things are also the most dangerous. This applies to your home garden as well. You may be surprised to find that some of the most visually stunning plants are actually poisonous.

But before you throw on a hazmat suit and run into the garden with a spade in hand, take into account that poisonous plants are simply a part of nature. You don’t necessarily need to dispose of them or resist including them in your garden. It’s all a matter of getting to know your plants and understanding that they require some extra attention for your garden to remain a safe, happy place.

Why Should I Be So Worried?

You may be thinking to yourself, “Well it’s not like I eat any of my plants or touch them and then rub my eyes, so what’s the big deal?” The problem is that toxic plants pose a threat not only to you, but to anyone who may walk by — or through — your garden. Particularly susceptible to accidental injury are wildlife, pets and children. If your garden faces the street and little kids pass by on the way to school, there’s a good chance curious little fingers might play with your petals or grab some berries for tasting. Rambunctious dogs and cats can easily come into contact with toxins. Hungry birds may feast on your offerings. You, too, can end up with contact poisoning if you’re not sure what you have in your garden.

Becoming Familiar with Poisonous Plants and Reactions

If you’re in the process of adding plants to your garden, do a quick online check before purchasing if the seller isn’t sure about its state of toxicity. For those plants already in your garden, calling a professional to complete a quick examination of your garden will do you a ton of good if you’re not familiar with plant names.

You may think that your plants are common and therefore non-toxic. Surprisingly, many well-known additions to home gardens are just the opposite. Keep in mind that the toxins often come from a particular part of the plant, so even edible plants may have poisonous attributes. Consider the following plants and their side effects:

  • Iris – The underground stems cause severe digestive upset.
  • Wisteria – The pods and seeds cause digestive upset.
  • Rhubarb – The leaf blades ingested in large amounts may result in convulsions and coma followed by death.
  • Jasmine – The berries cause digestive distress, nerve problems and death.
  • Azaleas/Rhododendrons – All parts of these plants result in vomiting, nausea, difficulty breathing, coma and death.

Remember, you can always run a quick online search to look over detailed lists for potential culprits and descriptions. There are even lists of plants which are toxic to animals.

How to Respond to Accidental Contact

Whether you, someone else or a pet has come into contact with a plant you’re unfamiliar with, contact your local poison control centre immediately.  “Contact” with toxins includes all forms from touching to ingestion. Always contact 911 in the case of an emergency; if you’re unsure whether a severe reaction is taking place, it is better to be safe than sorry.

How to Deal With Your Plants

You may wish to rid your garden of poisonous plants — the safest way to do this is to hire a professional to identify and remove them. However, if you choose to keep your plants, keep them close to the house and away from passersby to avoid accidental injury. If you have pets, create a run for them or add fencing around your plants to make them inaccessible. For houseplants or those kept on a patio, locate your plants high enough that a child cannot reach them — if you have cats, however, remember how easily they can climb.

Nobody wants to admit that their most prized plants contain toxins which can harm people and animals. However, their beauty should not deter you from getting to know your plants and from making important choices to keep your garden and its visitors safe from harm. Always remember, there are many lovely plants out there — where there is one gorgeous poisonous plant that must go, there is an equally interesting, non-toxic beauty to replace it.

By Tarah Damask

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