Safe and Toxic Houseplants

Posted on February 28, 2011 at 10:02 PM
Safe and Poisonous Houseplants
Many homes contain houseplants or other natural materials to add beauty and interest to the décor. Not only are they attractive but many varieties of houseplants serve as indoor air cleaners as well. Lovely and functional as they may be, some houseplants may present a hazard especially if young children or pets share the household.
A poisonous plant is one that contains a chemical substance which produces a harmful reaction in the body of humans or animals when taken in small or moderate amounts. A harmful reaction could include allergic reactions, dermatitis or skin irritation, of internal poisoning. Allergic reactions are not always classified as poisoning and will not be treated as such here. This is because there is a wide range of plants that can cause allergic reactions, and sensitivity to a particular plant varies among individuals. Also, individuals can react in different ways after contact with a poisonous plant depending on their sensitivity level.
It is important that houseplant owners be aware of the potential problems that plants with toxic properties might cause. Be aware of the identity of your houseplants and learn if they pose potential threats to children and pets. If you cannot identify a houseplant, call your local Extension Center or the Home and Garden Education Center for assistance. It is also important to realize that many plants need to be consumed in considerable quantities for poisoning to occur. Often poisonous plants taste bitter or acrid and children and pets may not ingest large amounts. Young children, especially, should be taught not to put unknown plants or plant parts in their mouths.
If a houseplant or natural decoration is ingested by children or pets and poisoning is suspected, call your family doctor, nearest emergency room or veterinarian immediately. The number for the National Poison Center is (800) 222-1222. They can tell you if a plant is poisonous and what symptoms might be expected with a particular toxin. You will need to provide them with the identity of the plant, however.
The following is a list of plants considered toxic. Remember that plants may contain a variety of poisons. They may cause symptoms ranging from a mild stomach ache to serious heart and kidney problems.
Common Name                                         Latin Name
Amaryllis                                                    Hippeastrum spp.
Anthurium                                                 Anthurium spp.
Apricot kernels                                          Prunus armeniaca
Azaleas                                                    Rhododendron spp                            
Caladium                                                   Caladium bicolor
Calla Lily                                                   Calla palustrus
Chinese Evergreen                               Aglaonema spp.
Colchicum                                                  Colcicum autumnale       
Daffodil                                                      Narcissus spp.
Dumb Cane                                                Dieffenbachia spp.
Elephant’s Ear                                            Colocasia antiquorum
English Ivy                                                  Hedera helix
Fishtail Palm                                               Caryota spp.
Holly Berries                                               Ilex spp.
Hyacinth                                                     Hyacinthus orientalis
Jerusalem Cherry                                        Solanum pseudocapsicum
Lantana                                                      Lantana camara
Mistletoe                                                    Phoradendron villosum
Mountain laurel (holiday greens)                  Kalmia spp.
Oleander                                                    Nerium oleander
Philodendron                                              Philodendron spp.
Ranunculus                                                Ranunculus spp.
Rosary Pea                                                 Abrus precatorius
Schefflera                                                   Schefflera actinophylla
Spathiphyllum                                             Spathiphyllum spp.
Yew (holiday greens)                                  Taxus spp.                       
Plants listed below are considered safe and not poisonous. Although eating or touching these plants is unlikely to cause illness, any plant might cause a reaction in certain sensitive individuals.
African Daisy                                             Dimorphotheca aurantiaca
African Violet                                             Saintpaulia ionantha
Aluminum Plant                                           Pilea spp.
Baby’s tears                                               Soleiria soleirolii
Bamboo, Golden                                        Phyllostachys aurea
Bird of Paradise                                         Strelitzia reginae
Bird’s Nest Fern                                        Asplenium nidus
Boston Fern                                               Nephrolepis exaltata
Camellia                                                     Camellia sinensis
Cast Iron Plant                                           Aspidistra elatior
Christmas cactus                                        Schlumbergera bridgesii
Coleus                                                        Coleus hybridus
Corn Plant                                                   Draceana spp.
Donkey’s Tail                                              Sedum morganianum
Dracaena                                                     Dracaena spp.
Echeveria                                                    Echeveria spp.
Figs, Weeping and Fiddleleaf**                    Ficus spp.
Geraniums                                                    Pelargonium spp.
Goldfish Plant                                              Columnea spp.
Impatiens                                                     Impatiens wallerana
Jade Plant                                                   Crassula argentea
Japanese Aralia                                            Fatsia japonica
Kalanchoe                                                   Kalanchoe spp.
Lipstick Plant                                               Aeschynanthus spp
Maidenhair Fern                                           Adiantum spp.
Nerve Plant                                                 Fittonia spp.
Orchids                            Cattleya, Epidendrum, Oncidium, Paphiopedilum spp.Norfolk Island Pine                                      Araucaria heterophylla
Palms                                Most nontoxic except fishtail palm, Caryota spp
Peperomia                                                  Peperomia spp.
Piggyback Plant **                                     Tolmiea mensziesii
Poinsettia **                                               Euphorbia pulcherrima
Prayer Plant                                                Maranta leuconeura
Purple Passion Plant                                   Gynura aurantiaca
Sensitive Plant                                             Mimosa puddica
Spider Plant                                               Chlorophytum comosum
Surinam cherry                                           Eugenia uniflora
Swedish Ivy                                               Plectranthus spp.
Wandering Jew **                                     Tradescantia spp.
Wax Plant                                                  Hoya carmosa
Zebra Plant                                                Aphelandra squarrosa
**Sap may be irritating.
Never eat any unknown plant and teach children the same.
  • Keep poisonous houseplants out of reach of children and pets.
  • Learn the names and potential toxicity of all houseplants.
  • Any plant may cause a reaction in certain people. If a plant is eaten, remove the rest from the mouth and rinse the mouth with water. Call your doctor or the emergency room immediately if you suspect a problem.

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