Answers to your gardening questions
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plants in the home and garden Ė Part 1
Welcome through Fredís Garden Gate! Plants, and their flowers, can be beautiful and add interest and atmosphere to the home or garden. We need an occasional reminder, however, that while plants are an important part of everyone's life, a few of the thousands of popular houseplants around these days could cause us and our families some serious problems. Parents of small children should remain particularly alert and sensitive to dangers which may be concealed in plants used to adorn their homes and gardens.
Letís look at a number of the more significant offenders. First, the more popular Holiday favorites and a few dangerous or toxic houseplants; then, in Dangerous plants in the home and garden, Part 2, we'll take a look at some from the flower and vegetable garden:
English Holly - The shiny, red berries of this holiday favorite can cause severe gastroenteritis if ingested.
- All parts, especially the white berries, are extremely toxic and can cause
death in both children and adults.
Yew (Taxus) - Occasionally used in holiday wreaths and decorations, the foliage, and to a lesser degree, berries, depress heart action. Death is usually sudden and without warning.
Bittersweet - Used in wreaths and table decorations, the dried red berries accented with yellow calyxes can cause vomiting, diarrhea, chills, convulsions and coma if ingested. The leaves and roots of living bittersweet vines are also highly toxic.
Acorns - The seed of oak trees, acorns can cause gradual deterioration of the kidneys. It takes a large amount for poisoning, but children should not be allowed to chew on acorns.
Chestnuts - Known to cause nausea, twitching muscles and sometimes paralysis.
Caladium (Elephant Ear), Philodendron, Dieffenbachia (Dumbcane) - Can cause intense burning and irritation of the tongue and mouth. Death can occur if the base of the tongue swells blocking air passage of the throat.
English Ivy - Leaves and berries cause stomach pains, labored breathing and possibly coma if ingested.
Hyacinth, Narcissus, Daffodil, Autumn Crocus - Eating or chewing on these bulbs can result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and possibly death.
Oleander - All parts are extremely toxic. A single leaf ingested by a child can kill. Other symptoms: severe digestive upsets; cardiac disturbances; dermatitis.
Castorbean, Rosary plant - Seeds and foliage can cause burning in the mouth and convulsions followed by death. A single seed or "bead" can be fatal.
Pineapple Plant (decorative) - Beautiful, but has rigid, sharp, saw-like "teeth" along the margins of leaves which can cause severe lacerations of tender, young skin.
Asparagus Fern - This attractive houseplant has concealed reverse "barbs" along the stems which offer traumatic resistance to being pulled at. They can cause serious lacerations.
Agave (Century Plant) - Like the pineapple plant above, this one has "teeth" and a deadly, pointed "spear" at each leaf's end. Should never be used in a landscape where children or the physically-challenged are free to roam.
Euphorbia - The milky sap of many of these houseplants can be either poisonous or cause severe skin reactions in sensitive persons. Some, notably the "Crown of Thorns," can inflict painful injury if touched or fallen into.
Datura (Angel's Trumpet) - Related to the potato and Deadly Nightshade, its sap is considered poisonous by many authorities. Neither they nor I recommend you grow a Datura where children (who are enthralled by the striking, large and fragrant flower) are present.
Cactus - Covered with spines, sometimes long, occasionally "hooked" like velcro, cactus plants in the home and garden present a real danger and threat to youngsters, oldsters or anyone unsure of their footing. Many of the spines are rough, making them painful to remove; others readily break off beneath the skin, causing local infections ("festering") and possibly the need for medical intervention.
For an outstanding list of dangerous plants from a very credible source: http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/alphalist.html.
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