Flower Power: Poison in the Backyard

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Watch out! That Garden of Eden you planted may give you more than you bargained for!

To Avoid Plant Poisoning…

  1. Identify the plants in your yard and house. Learn their common and scientific names.
  2. Never eat any part of an unknown plant, whether it’s in your yard or in the wild. Never attempt to make your own “tea “from one unless you’ve positively identified the plant.
  3. If you grow your own herbs, make certain that you aren’t harvesting deadly look-alikes.
  4. Teach your children about the dangers of pot sonous plants. Instruct them to keep unknown flowers, fruits, berries, and other parts out of their mouths. Know which plants the children use as playthings or cookout skewers.
  5. Label seeds and bulbs. Store them away from children. Keep all plant parts out of the reach of infants.
  6. Don’t assume that cooking will destroy toxic plant substances.
  7. Don’t conclude that a plant is edible for humans just because animals consume it.

If Poisoning Does Occur …

  1. Call a physician, hospital emergency room, or poison control center immediately. Report the name of the plant, the quantity and parts ingested, how long ago the poisoning occurred, and the age of the victim.
  2. Save all evidence that might help identify the plant, such as any of its parts.
  3.  If no doctor is available to provide specific instruction, have the patient drink plenty of water. Induce vomiting by gently tickling the back of the throat with a spoon or a similar blunt object … or by giving an emetic such as warm salt water, soapy water, or syrup of ipecac.

    The last-mentioned emetic is available at a nominal price at any pharmacy. Most doctors recommend that you keep an ounce of syrup of ipecac in your medicine chest at all times, in case of emergencies. The American Medical Association recommends a dosage of two tablespoons
    for an adult, one tablespoon for children under 12, and two teaspoons for infants under one year. Follow its ingestion with one or two glasses of water or milk.

    Don’t induce vomiting or give liquids if the victim is unconscious or convulsing. Keep the patient warm. Administer artificial respiration if necessary.
  4. Take the victim and the plant parts to the nearest hospital as quickly as possible.

Most of us recognize and avoid poison ivy, and no knowledgeable wild-foods forager would pick a potherb without consulting a reputable field guide. But are you aware that a virtual rogue’s gallery of toxic greenery is probably thriving in your own backyard?

Image by Mabel Amber, still incognito… from Pixabay 

The fact is, you’re seldom far from a poisonous plant, whether you’re on a camping excursion, puttering in a flower or vegetable garden, tending the lawn or shrubbery, or just relaxing indoors. And while most adults can recognize the well-known toxic species, each year many people are inadvertently poisoned—sometimes fatally—by accidentally ingesting or contacting less familiar poisonous plants. Dermatitis, or skin rash, is also very common and may be caused by contact with a remarkably wide variety of plants, including many familiar vegetable species.

A number of these plants are so common—and seemingly innocuous—that most folks don’t even suspect that their leaves and flowers harbor deadly compounds. Even so-called “edible” plants can fool us, as one part may be perfectly good to eat, while another is quite poisonous. This is the case with rhubarb, tomato vines, potato plants, and various fruit trees. And though a number of toxic species have a distinctly unpleasant taste (thus making it unlikely that they’d be savored for very long), many dangerous plants are relatively palatable and so may be eaten in quantities sufficient to cause serious poisoning. Children are especially vulnerable in this regard, as they’re apt to sample anything that’ll fit into their mouths … particularly attractive-looking—but perhaps deadly—berries.

Obviously, eradicating all the poisonous species from your yard would be impractical and undesirable, since some of the most beautiful and cherished landscape plants are toxic. But you can help prevent accidental poisoning just by becoming acquainted with the species found around your house and garden. The following chart includes a sampling of plants that cause internal poisoning, as well as a few that simply result in skin irritation. By taking note of the dangers present in your favorite greenery, you’ll be better able to insure that all your harvests will be enjoyable ones.