See that pretty plant sweeping all around the fireplace? Christine says, “my botany skills temporarily failed me a few years ago, mistaking it for parsley. Luckily I’m here to tell the tale :).”
But seriously, have you considered that many plants and flowers that may be growing in your yard could be toxic, and even deadly? With wild foraging so trendy now, it’s important to know when to look and not touch, especially if you have small children or pets. Here are 10 of the most common suspects you might find in your yard.
Lily of The Valley
There are so many reasons that lily of the valley is one of my favorite plants. It grows great in the shade and can fill in a bare spot in your garden in one season. Their scent so potent, I used to have vases of the bell-shaped flowers throughout my home. Now I know better. The vase water from these beauties contains convallatoxin which can quickly mess with your heart rhythm. A small bite of any part of the plant will lead to coma and death. Yikes!!
Foxglove (digitalis purpurea)
Gardeners love this tall plant because it’s easy to grow and because of its height, looks great in the back of border gardens. Take caution though, because children have died just by accidentally sucking on the upper leaves and flowers. While used medicinally, a small nibble is deadly. Thirty minutes after ingesting, nausea and vomiting set in and will cause heart failure.
A popular ornamental shrub grown in most parts of the country, the entire plant is highly toxic, including its sap and nectar. Like most poisonous plants, nausea will quickly begin after even a tiny leaf is ingested and will lead to life threatening circulatory issues.
“Leaves of three, let them be.” Can you hear your mother saying this? This menace will grow in the sun or shade, wet or dry soil. Trying to rid your yard of poison ivy is no easy task. Your best bet is to just stay away from it. Poison ivy leaves release urushiol when lightly brushed against. Most of us know that severe itching begins soon after we’ve come in contact with the oil. In most cases this is just a nuisance and easily treated with anti-itch topicals.
Does anyone hang fresh mistletoe during the Christmas season? I usually see it for sale next to the poinsettias. Eating just a couple of leaves causes the small intestine to inflame and then cardiovascular collapse. Ouch!! One or two berries from mistletoe is fatal to small pets. Skip the “kissing ball” tradition next year.
Water Hemlock/Spotted Parsley
The most dangerous and deadliest plant on our list, most of us see this growing on the edges of our property or along roadsides. How could this perennial wildflower be so much trouble? While the entire plant is toxic, the white umbrella-like flowers can kill you within 15 minutes of ingestion due to the cicutoxin poison it contains. The USDA has named water hemlock the deadliest plant in North America. And to think as kids we used to pick these on our walks and bring them home to mom.
Commonly found in spring border gardens, Narcissus is famous for its ease. Plant some bulbs in rows or groups and you have a great show next season. Take care if you decide to plant them. The bulbs are extremely toxic. If they even as much touch an open scratch on your arm, it can result in heart paralysis.
Plant these once and they’ll grow for decades in your garden. The flowers dry, turn brown and drop seed at summer’s end. Florists love them in fresh arrangements and dried bouquets. Gardeners plant them for their spikey blue, purple and pink flowers. Seek immediate treatment if ingested. It won’t take long to realize these beauties are not for eating.
Remember when you were little and you used to hold those tiny little yellow flowers under your friend’s chin to see if they liked butter? If it left a red mark it meant you liked butter. Really though, the red mark was the result of a skin irritant the plant contains, glycoside. If eaten though, buttercups will cause severe burning of the mouth and digestive tract. Luckily, it tastes terrible and bitter and no deaths have been reported.
Many people have mushrooms growing in their yards. They typically grow in clumps and look exactly like the mushrooms you buy at the store. Consider ANY mushroom grown in the wild or in your yard to be dangerous. They are highly toxic. If ingested, symptoms don’t appear for hours, but will result in severe vomiting and liver failure. Teach young children never to pick mushrooms!
Many of us purchase homes with some of these plants already residing in our yards. If you can’t identify anything growing in your garden, take a picture and take it to your garden center. You can also do research online or in books to find out if you’re safe from these poisonous plants. If you’re purchasing new shrubs and plants, find out if they’re safe. If you have any of these in your yard, decide if you want to keep them or dig them out. Wear gloves if you get rid of them. Throw them right into your garbage and not in your compost pile. Don’t burn anything, even if they are dead and dry, because inhaling certain plant oils is just as dangerous as ingesting them. Obviously we want to enjoy our gardens and death is rare, but it’s good to know what to watch out for.