Do you really know the plants in your yard? Sure, you know how tall they will grow, the colors of the flowers and when they will bloom. But do you know if they are friends or foes?
Many plants, flowers and trees, commonly used in landscaping and as houseplants, are poisonous to humans and pets. I did not think seriously about this issue until I attended a lecture by Amy Stewart, author of Wicked Plants, at the Springs Preserve in the fall of 2014. She presented picture after picture of common, yet poisonous landscaping plants used in public settings and homes.
One plant that she featured was located in a park-like setting within reach of kids and pets. This plant is unique because it produces seeds which contain the deadly poison ricin. If you do not know the plant, it is the Castor Oil Plant. According to Cornell University’s Department of Agricultural and Life Sciences http, “It is said that just one seed can kill a child. Children are more sensitive than adults to fluid loss due to vomiting and diarrhea, and can quickly become severely dehydrated and die.” But this plant is beautiful and people are often unaware of its potentially lethal characteristics.
Because the foliage we plant can be dangerous, it is important to do some research before adding a new green friend to a landscape or garden. When gardening, you can better protect yourself by wearing gloves, a long sleeve shirt and pants rather than shorts. It is also a good idea not to touch unknown plants or eat them. To help you get started on your research, I’ve completed a state by state list of websites with information about poisonous plants. If you don’t see your state, try one nearby.