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Harmful Plants



Plants that are Dangerous to Animals and People


Poinsettias are not poisonous.

What plants to avoid due to toxicity is a confusing issue. Most of the lists available definitely contain mistakes. Some of them list plants like begonias, periwinkles, caladiums, English ivy, garlic, yarrow, nandina, hibiscus, portulaca, St. Johns wort, wandering jew, lantana, larkspur, etc. I use these plants frequently and some are actually food crops.

Lantana - listed as toxic but very little concern

Begonias, yarrow, garlic, hibiscus and portulaca are all edible plants and/or beneficial herbs. I have thousands of larkspur (the most toxic plant on this list) growing on all my properties and encourage others to plant it freely because it is a wonderful wildflower. The rest of the plants on this list are ubiquitous and no problem to animals at all. If they were a problem, I would have had at least one report of such over the past 40 years. Some commonly used plants such as oaks are listed as toxic but you would have to eat a lot of leaves or acorns to get sick.

Oleander - a truly toxic plant

See my Edible Flowers information for another angle to all this. Edible Flowers
I love helping the SPCA here in Dallas find homes for their great pets, but it looks like we need to help them with their dangerous plant list. If all these plants were avoided, landscaping would be very difficult. ASPCA Poison Plants Website - - 888-222-1222

Here’s the info from Wikipedia. It’s pretty good but lists poinsettia so might have other mistakes. Poinsettia is not poisonous. List of Poisonous Plants

Here’s list from Texas Poison Control Network (May be the most helpful source) 1-800-222-1222

Here’s the Texas A&M Agrilife list. It’s pretty good but very incomplete and has some errors. For example, it says that all parts of elderberry are poison. Sorry, but the fruit is delicious and I eat it often. Poisonous Plants
Some General Guidelines
  • Some plants can be poisonous if you eat them. Others can irritate the skin.
  • For some plants, all parts of the plant are poisonous. For others, only certain parts of the plant are harmful.
  • The danger can range from mild irritation to severe illness or death. The most commonly used poisonous plant is oleander.
  • Keep indoor plants where children can’t reach them.
  • Watch young children carefully when they play outdoors.
  • Teach children always to ask an adult before eating or drinking anything.
  • Only eat wild plants if you know for certain what they are. People have died after mistaking hemlock for wild carrots for example.
  • Even non-poisonous plants can cause choking in some cases.
  • If someone eats a suspicious plant, call Poison Control Network for advice.
  • Find out the names of your plants. If someone eats a bad plant, Poison Control needs to know what it is!
Best recommendation probably - buyer beware. Don’t eat anything that is not a proven edible plant.

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To discuss this newsletter or any other topic, tune in each Sunday 8am - 11am central time to the Dirt Doctor Radio Show. The call-in phone number is 1-866-444-3478. Listen on the internet or click here to find a station in your area.

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Naturally yours,

Howard Garrett
The Dirt Doctor


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