Popular plants may actually be toxic to your kids, pets

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — It’s the time of year when we love to be out in the garden, but if you have small children or pets you’ll want to pay close attention to what you’re planting. Some flowers and trees can be poisonous.


Some of the most commonly-known, and most poisonous plants, are castor beans, oleander, and yews, but Mark Weathington, the director of the JC Raulston Arboretum at North Carolina State University, says lots of plants have some degree of toxicity.

He says the Illicium, a type of anise tree which is relatively new to the area, is becoming popular, but it’s also toxic.

“We love them because they are beautiful evergreen plants and they are deer-proof,” he said. “Deer don’t eat them because they’re poisonous.”

Another plant growing in popularity, the baptisia, has many new colors available, but Weathington notes the foliage on the plant is poisonous. Other popular poisonous plants include azaleas, foxgloves and bleeding hearts.

Experts say you should call poison control if you believe your child has eaten a dangerous plant or any plant, seed or berry you can’t identify. Many toxic plants could cause upset stomach, vomiting or diarrhea. Others cause swelling and pain in the mouth, but there are some plants that could cause serious cardiac or neurological symptoms. Although plant poisonings are rare, it’s recommended that parents and grandparents teach children about the dangers.

Vanette McKinney likes to garden with her almost-3-year-old grandson, Thearon.

“We just know, in life in general, there are things that are not to be put into the mouth so that just translates easily in the garden,” she said.


Families with small children aren’t the only ones who want to take precautions when it comes to plants in the yard – pet owners need to be aware too.

John Logan moved his nandinas out of the backyard when he realized his puppy liked to chew on them.

“We did some research and found that they’re very poisonous to dogs,” he explained. “A big one for dogs is going to be our rhododendrons and azaleas,” noted Dr. Brittany Simpson, a veterinarian with Complete Pet Care Animal Hospital at Falls Pointe. “Fortunately for us, not a lot of dogs like them, but there is always your curious little lab or a puppy who likes to put their mouth on anything, so they can cause some serious issues – cardiac issues actually with rhododendrons.”

Gastrointestinal issues are often the first sign an animal has eaten a dangerous plant. Dogs and cats usually recover with treatment, but some plants are more harmful than others.

“Our Easter lilies, peace lilies, those can cause kidney failure,” said Simpson, “All it takes is one little bite of those and a cat’s kidneys can have a really big issues.”

Experts say placement is key whether you’re dealing with curious pets or children. Keep toxic flowers and trees away from playhouses or swing sets and know exactly what plants are in your yard, so you can quickly identify them if there is an emergency.

If your child has eaten a plant you can’t identify or that you know is toxic, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.

For a list of poisonous plants in our state and additional resources from N.C. State, click here.

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center has a pet poisoning hotline if you believe your pet has eaten a dangerous plant. The number is: (888) 426-4435, but it’s important to note, a consultation fee can be charged. For more information and a guide to plants that are dangerous to animals, click here.

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