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Harmful Plants
by Jerry Filipski
by Jerry Filipski


Gerald (Jerry) Filipski is the gardening columnist for the Edmonton Journal, a position he has enjoyed as a freelance writer for the past 12 years. Jerry also writes for Canadian Gardening, the new Alberta Gardener as well as for the lifestyle magazine of P&O ferries. Jerry also does numerous public speaking engagements including some major gardening conferences and workshops as well as question and answer sessions for Wal-Mart and Rona.

July 22, 2007

Q. - We recently moved into a new home. We would like to start some 
flower and vegetable gardens. We have a 2 year old who is very 
inquisitive and are concerned about harmful plants. Can you give us a 
list of the plants we should avoid planting?

A. - There are many plants in our gardens that would be harmful if 
eaten in large quantities. This does not mean that by growing them we 
are putting ourselves at risk. We have to put the potential danger of 
poisonous plants into perspective. It is vital to educate your child 
starting with teaching them not to eat anything without an adult 
being present. Try to set a good example for your child by never 
picking and then eating plants, fruits or berries as you walk in your 

When purchasing any plant you should discuss your concerns 
with the nursery or greenhouse personnel, they will be able to help 
you in identifying potential harmful plants. You can also call 
Agriculture Canada for a detailed listing of harmful plants. Here is 
a brief list of the most common plants that are harmful:

  • Monkshood (Aconitum napellus) All parts of the plant are poisonous and can be fatal if ingested. The fortunate aspect here is that the plant tastes horrible and very little if any is actually consumed. Be warned that the poisons can be absorbed through the skin so children playing with the flowers or foliage will be at risk.

  • Berberis (Berberis) Be watchful of their dangerously sharp spines on the stems and leaf tips. They can cause severe eye injury.

  • Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) All parts, especially the  seeds are poisonous but they also taste bad making it unlikely that they will be consumed in large quantities.

  • Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) All parts of this plant can cause serious poisoning, even in small quantities. Again this plant tastes bad. The bitterness is extreme and likely causes vomiting first, so 
    ingestion of large quantities is rare.

  • Spurge or euphorbia (Euphorbia) The white sap causes a burning 
    sensation and skin rash. If ingested the mouth would burn and become inflamed.

  • Lupin (Lupinus) The seeds and pods are poisonous but need to be 
    ingested in large quantities in order to be harmful.

  • Daffodil (Narcissus) The bulbs have been mistaken for onions. When consumed they cause nausea, vomiting, stomach ache and diarrhea. Fortunately they do not cause severe illness.

  • Castor oil plant (Ricinus communis) All parts of the plant 
    especially the seeds are poisonous and can be fatal.

  • Sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus) The seeds are poisonous if ingested

  • Seeds- Many seeds are treated with fungicides which can be harmful if ingested.

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