"Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Fillet of fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake"
William Shakespeare from Macbeth
In the spirit of Halloween, I thought I would do a post on poisonous plants and berries.
Foxgloves and Monkshood are very often singled out as poisonous garden plants. In fact, one of the first things you are likely to read about Monkshood, Aconitum is that it is poisonous. Certainly Monkshood should be handled with caution, but it is also a really nice flower to grow in moist, part shade.
Foxgloves, Digitalis contain cardia glycoside toxins which can effect the heart muscle in both humans and pets. It is also the source of a heart medication that has saved may lives.
Foxglove, Digitalis (left) and Bi-color Monkshood, Aconitum (right)
Foxgloves and Monkshood may be among the best known poisonous plants, but there is actually a long list of plants that are poisonous to both humans and pets.
When dealing with poisonous garden plants some good common sense goes a long way:
• Avoid eating, drinking or smoking when around plants that are known to be poisonous.
• Dispose of toxic plant material carefully making sure they are out of reach of children and pets.
• Wash your hands after handling poisonous plants, or even better, wear garden gloves.
• Do not assume a plant is non-toxic because birds or wild animals eat them.
• If you think that a child has eaten a doubtful plant, seek medical advice immediately. Take a sample of the plant with you to the emergency department to aid the plant's identification.
• If you think your pet has ingested a poisonous plant, call your vet right away. Again, take a sample of the plant with you to the vet's office to aid with identification.
In the late summer and fall the garden often is filled with shiny, ripe berries that might appear tempting to a young child.
• You may want to consider avoiding plants with toxic berries until your toddler is old enough to understand they are not to be eaten.
• It's a good idea to teach young children never to put mushrooms, berries or any part of a plant in their mouth.
• It's always wise to supervise a young child in the garden.
Starting from the left: Yew berries, Pokeweed berries, Cotoneaster berries, Blue Colash berries
Here are just a few common berries that are poisonous:
Yew, Pokeweed, Bittersweet, Belladonna, Ivy, Mistletoe, Poison Ivy, Holly berries, Jerusalem Cherry, Doll's Eyes and Cotoneaster berries.
I consider myself lucky. My dogs don't like to dig and aren't interested in eating bulbs or plants. The only thing they have ever eaten is the odd cherry tomato.
Here are some common plants poisonous to pets:
Autumn Crocus: Fall blooming crocus contain colchicine which is toxic to pets and may result in respiratory failure, liver and kidney damage, vomiting and gastrointestinal bleeding. (Spring crocus may cause vomiting and diarrhea, but aren't as harmful).
Azalea: Ingestion of an azalea's leaves may cause vomiting, diarrhea and drooling. Without quick veterinary attention, a pet may fall into a coma and possibly die.
Cyclamen: Ingestion of the roots of a cyclamen may cause vomiting and even death.
Lilies: Tiger, Daylilies, Asiatic and Easter lilies are particularly toxic for cats. Even the ingestion of a few petals or leaves can cause kidney failure and death.
Daffodils: Ingestion of the bulb, plant or flower can cause vomiting, diarrhea, slowed breathing and even cardiac arrhythmia.
Lily of the Valley: Like foxgloves, Lily of the Valley contains cardiac glycosides. When ingested Lily of the Valley can cause vomiting, a drop in heart rate or cardiac arrhythmia and seizures.
Tulips & Hyacinths: When any parts of these plants are ingested they can cause drooling, vomiting and diarrhea.
This is a short list. If you have a pet that likes to snack in the garden, do your research before you bring a plant home for your garden.
Sadly, there is quite the long list of plants you may have to avoid.
Houseplants can also be a concern for pets. Here is a list of just a few of the common houseplants that are poisonous for pets:
Amaryllis, Asparagus Fern, Azaleas, Chrysanthemum, Poinsettia, Pot Mum and Spider Mum
Bottom Line: If you think your pet has eaten something and is showing any signs of poisoning, consult a veterinary immediately.
Ways to deter pets from nibbling on houseplants:
• Put the houseplant up out of reach on a shelf or plant stand. You can also put houseplants in a hanger.
• Spray houseplants with diluted lemon juice (one part juice to two parts water) or bitter apple.
• Put plants in a glass terrarium.
• Offer an alternative. Buy kitty grass for your cat.
• Boredom is one of the major causes of bad behaviour. Offer chew toys and other safe forms of entertainment.
A few ways to deter pets from eating garden plants:
• Build raised flower and vegetable beds.
• If you have a large yard, consider creating a fenced pet friendly area and restrict them to it.
• Alternately, enclose your garden with a fence that will keep pets at a safe distance. A friend of mine has a lovely formal garden that is fenced and gated in her large open backyard.
• Consider netting or chicken wire to keep your pet away from problem plants.
• Train your dog. Praise him or her when he or she responds to firm correction.
The boys and I hope you are having a spooktacular Halloween!
More Information and Links:
Government of Canada List of Poisonous Plants
Canadian Child Care Federation list of toxic plants.
ASPCA List of 17 Poisonous Plants for Pets