Toxic Holiday Plants

Good to Know

Dec 21, 2012

Christmas time is here again and with this holiday comes beautiful decorations inside and outside. Many of us enjoy decorating our homes for the Christmas season with traditional holiday plants and flowers. Probably the most popular holiday plant for Christmas is the poinsettia. Its bright red flowers radiate Christmas and look beautiful anywhere you place them. Mistletoe and holly are other popular holiday plants used for decorations. While these plants are beautiful to look at, they can cause problems for children and pets if ingested.  Babies are often attracted to the bright berries and colorful leaves of holiday plants and of course, they put everything in their mouths. Puppies love to chew on just about everything and even adult dogs eat some non-edible items. 

Here is a partial list of some popular holiday plants that are toxic:

POINSETTIA:  This plant has been falsely classified as poisonous, yet no deaths from this plant have been recorded. This rumor came about from one fatality in Hawaii more than 75 years ago, when a child who was said to have eaten one leaf died.   Poinsettias do have toxic properties and can irritate the mouth and stomach if ingested. The sap may cause blistering (similar to poison ivy), if it comes in contact with the skin and not washed off immediately. The America Poinsettia is the more common variety in the US and are mildly toxic, European varieties  may be more toxic.

HOLLY:  The berries and all parts of this plant are toxic. Eating the red berries of this plant will cause abdominal pain and gastrointestinal upset.

JEQUIRITY BEAN:  (Indian Prayer Bean)   This scarlet bean with black tips is used in dried arrangements and the seed is poisonous if eaten and can be deadly.

JERUSALEM CHERRY:   Every part of this plant contains toxic substances, ingesting the fruit or foliage will have adverse affects on the heart.

MISTLETOE:   All parts of this plant are toxic; the berries are extremely poisonous.   This plant is very toxic to animals. 

YEW:   This evergreen contains toxic leaves, seeds, bark and twigs causing breathing difficulties, trembling and stomach upset.

BOXWOOD:   The leaves and twigs are very toxic.

CHRISTMAS CACTUS:   This plant has low level toxicity.

CHRISTMAS ROSE:   All parts of this plant are toxic affecting both humans and pets.

Helpful Tips:

Place plants out of reach of children and pets. Supervise them when they are near your plants and know the types of plants you have in your house. Prevention is the best, but accidents do happen so be prepared if you have some of these plants around your home and keep the U.S. National Poison Center control's phone number (800) 222-1222 and your veterinarian emergency phone number close by.

While you are busy wrapping presents, planning your holiday meal, and getting the spare bedroom ready for guests; don't let these distractions and others keep you from watching your children and pets during this busy time of year.