Poi­sonous Flora

Care­ful of what you grow, dan­ger lurk­ing in the gar­den, con­sult ex­perts

RSWLiving - - CONTENTS - BY ANN MARIE O’PHEL AN Ann Marie O’Phe­lan is a South­west Florida res­i­dent and a fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to TOTI Me­dia.

They’re nice to look at. But a large num­ber of house­hold and gar­den plants can put us and our pets in dan­ger of sick­ness.

Or worse. Toxic plants are a chief cause of pet and live­stock ill­nesses, even death. They play havoc with cu­ri­ous kids, too. Con­sider the pur­ple flow­ered lan­tana that adds color and in­ter­est to any gar­den. In­gested, how­ever, the plant can cause gas­tric prob­lems and even cir­cu­la­tory col­lapse. Cal­a­di­ums, with their pat­terned bold leaves, make great-looking houseplants. Again, not so great go­ing down; ex­pect in­di­ges­tion and swelling and ir­ri­ta­tion of the mouth, lips and throat. Al­though a lovely or­na­men­tal plant, sago palms are dan­ger­ous to dogs, in the worst sce­nario cause vom­it­ing and liver fail­ure. Ole­an­ders are also lovely shrubs that are widely used as hedges, yet they are toxic to live­stock, pets and hu­mans, caus­ing stom­ach up­set, ab­dom­i­nal pain, sweat­ing and weak­ness.

You get the point. The Univer­sity of Florida/In­sti­tute of Food and Agri­cul­tural Sci­ences (IFAS) Ex­ten­sion of­fice, in fact, lists dozens of toxic and com­mon poi­sonous plants on its web­site, in­clud­ing nat­u­rally grow­ing weeds and for­age for live­stock, aquatic and in­va­sive plants. Most of these aren’t nec­es­sar­ily deadly but do cause a host of trou­bles re­lat­ing to tox­i­c­ity.

So be­fore de­cid­ing to spruce up the house or gar­den, ex­perts rec­om­mend study­ing what plants may be easy on

the eye but bad for our health. Your best bet is checking with a master gar­dener at the green­house, a county agri­cul­ture agent or a cer­ti­fied land­scaper. Gar­den clubs and the web are also helpful. Poi­sonous plants can in­clude more than the ob­vi­ous ones you al­ready know bet­ter to stay away from, such as poi­son ivy or poi­son oak. “You can’t tell if a plant is poi­sonous just by looking at it,” says Dr. Roy Beck­ford, an agri­cul­tural ex­pert and di­rec­tor of the Lee County UF/IFAS Ex­ten­sion of­fice, a nat­u­ral re­sources and ed­u­ca­tional agency dat­ing back decades to ru­ral farm­ing and live­stock pro­duc­tion.

Not ev­ery­thing dan­ger­ous is a weed. Take, for in­stance, the boldly beautiful amaryl­lis plant. The bulbs and seeds of this plant can cause serious health prob­lems for pets in­gest­ing them, as can other lilies, aza­lea, holly, mistle­toe and daf­fodils. Mold from Christmas firs plays havoc on pets drink­ing stand wa­ter, for in­stance.

Signs to look for in pos­si­ble plant poi­son­ings can vary from drowsi­ness to stom­ach pain to fever or chills.

One plant that has the rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing poi­sonous, when in fact it isn’t, is the poin­set­tia. “Not one part of these hol­i­day beau­ties is toxic to ei­ther peo­ple or pets,” ex­plains Beck­ford, al­though, again, in­ges­tion can cause stom­ach up­set or the milky sap could cause skin ir­ri­ta­tions or al­ler­gic re­ac­tions.

Signs to look for in pos­si­ble plant poi­son­ings “can range from lethargy to seizures,” says Dr. Tina Wis­mer, the med­i­cal di­rec­tor for the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety for the Pre­ven­tion of Cru­elty to An­i­mals An­i­mal Poi­son Con­trol Cen­ter, or APCC. She adds that if your pet is act­ing oddly, drowsy or vom­it­ing, it’s im­por­tant to con­tact the fam­ily vet­eri­nar­ian or a pet poi­son hot­line. If pos­si­ble, and in the case of an emer­gency, bring a pic­ture of the plant or the plant it­self so that it c an be cor­rectly iden­ti­fied. “The num­ber one rea­son for calls to poi­son con­trol cen­ters is due to poi­sonous plants,” ex­plains Beck­ford.

So how do you keep your land­scap­ing, gar­den and home safe for chil­dren and pets?

“It’s im­por­tant to know what plants you have in your yard,” says Wis­mer. By tak­ing photographs and prop­erly iden­ti­fy­ing the plants at a nurs­ery, an ex­ten­sion of­fice, or even on­line, can be a start, she says, warn­ing that “if you know what the risks are be­fore­hand, you can re­duce ac­cess to those ar­eas by us­ing de­trac­tors such as chicken wire or by re­mov­ing the plants,” she adds.

It’s im­por­tant to know what plants you have in your yard.” —Dr. Tina Wis­mer, APCC med­i­cal di­rec­tor

Be­fore de­cid­ing to spruce up the house or gar­den, study what plants may be easy on the eye but bad for our health. Your best bet is checking with a master gar­dener , a county agri­cul­ture agent or a cer­ti­fied land­scaper .

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