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Poisonous Garden Plants

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Most gardeners choose garden plants without thinking about how safe they are to have in the garden. You would not think that nurseries or green houses would sell gardeners anything that is poisonous, but they do. It is amazing how many toxic plants most Bluegrass gardens contain.

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Before you get too worried many poisonous plants are harmful when you eat plant parts, which most of us do not do. However, some pets, mentally challenged adults or small children can be of concern because they may be drawn to berries, seeds or plant foliage that could be poisonous.

Many plant nurseries and greenhouses do not inform you of what plants are poisonous. Every gardener should know what plants have poisonous parts and then take appropriate steps to keep people, pets and livestock safe.

The rest of this article is going to list some common garden plants found in the Bluegrass Region that are poisonous. For information identifying poisonous plants, ask your local Master Gardener or your county Extension office. You can safely use many of these plants in your garden if you can teach children and pets to never taste things without permission.

• Aconite, Monkshood - all parts are very poisonous, a historical poison

• Artemisia, wormwood - all parts are very poisonous; however its use in Absinthe, the liquor, is safe

• Arums, Jack in the Pulpit, other species - all parts are poisonous

• Black Locust - all parts

• Bleeding Heart - all parts

• Bloodroot - all parts

• Castor Bean - all parts, but particularly the beans - 2-3 beans could kill a child; it is a source of the deadly poison Ricin

• Colchicum, autumn crocus- all parts

• Daffodils, narcissus- all parts

• Angels trumpet or moonflower - all parts are very toxic. Smelling flowers for a long period has a narcotic effect. Seeds are extremely poisonous and just a few can kill.

• Daphne - all parts, berries very toxic

• Delphinium- all parts

• Elderberries - all parts except ripe berries are poisonous.

• English Ivy - berries - outdoor and house plant species.

• Flax- all parts except cooked seeds

• Flowering Quince - all parts except ripe fruit.

• Foxglove - all parts- used for digitalis, a heart medicine

• Hellebore, Lenten Rose, Christmas rose - all parts- an ancient poison.

• Horse Chestnut- “nut” is toxic, even cooked.

• Hydrangea - all parts but especially flower buds

• Jerusalem Cherry - very toxic - all parts

• Kidney Bean - uncooked beans are quite toxic

• Lantana - berries

• Larkspur - close relative of delphinium, all parts very toxic

• Lilies - very toxic to cats - all parts

• Lily of the Valley - all parts, especially berries and seeds

• Lobelia- both red and blue types- all parts

• Maple, red maple species (Acer rubrum) - the wilted or dried leaves are toxic to horses and possibly other animals- other maples not toxic.

• May apple - all parts except ripe flesh of fruit

• Mistletoe - all parts dried or fresh - very toxic

• Morning Glory - all parts but particularly seeds

• Mountain Laurel - all parts

• Nightshades - Black, woody, bittersweet - all parts

• Oleander - all parts very toxic- seeds used as a means of suicide.

• Onions - cause blood problems in dogs even when cooked.

• Passionflower- all parts very toxic, except ripe fruit and juice from ripe fruit.

• Peace Lily - houseplant - all parts mildly toxic

• Philodendron - all parts mildly toxic

• Pokeberry - all parts. Very young shoots are cooked in 2 changes of water for “poke greens” berries used for dye and ink but poisonous to eat

• Potato - all parts except tubers; green skin and sprouts on tubers poison

• Privet - all parts, especially berries, deer eat it safely.

• Purple Hyacinth bean - all parts

• Rhododendrons and Azaleas - all parts - honey from flowers also toxic

• Rhubarb - all parts except young stems

• Sweet Peas - seeds most toxic, plant mildly toxic.

• Sweet woodruff- all parts

• Tansy - all parts

• Tomato - all parts except fruit

• Tulips- cause rash - bulbs mildly toxic

• Yews - all species- all parts are very toxic, ripe flesh of berries is only mildly toxic but ingesting seeds with it could be fatal.

This is a limited list and may not include all the poisonous plants in your garden. New plants are constantly being added to the market and some have very little known about them. Weeds that invade the garden can also be poison. If you suspect plant poisoning call the poison hotline at 1-800-222-1222.