My granddaughter Grace is really getting the hang of this walking lark! As a typically doting granny, this has set me thinking about her toddling around the garden this spring, with me pointing out my favourite plants. And then, being an eternal worrier, I started thinking about harmful garden plants and whether I ought to start digging things up!
After a quick scoot around the RHS website, I had calmed myself with the knowledge that, fortunately, serious poisoning by plants is very uncommon in the UK. Some garden plants do present a hazard, but the risk of severe poisoning, skin reaction or allergy is low.
So, what are the hazards?
Some plants may cause digestive upset or discomfort if eaten. Obviously, children are most at risk as we adults tend not to go around stuffing garden plants into our mouths or up our noses! A small number of common garden plants are more toxic and could cause severe poisoning. Obvious ones that I think we probably all know include Laburnum, Laurel and Yew. Less obvious nasties include Autumn crocus, Lily-of-the-valley, Delphinium and the innocent looking Bluebell!
Other plants cause problems when in contact with the skin. Irritant sap can cause a burning sensation and sometimes blistering of the skin and anyone can be affected if you get enough on your skin. Some unexpected candidates include Daffodils, Lobelia and Chrysanthemum.
What to do if there’s a problem…
If you think a child or adult has eaten part of a doubtful plant, seek medical advice immediately from a hospital Accident & Emergency department. Do remember to take a sample of the plant with you. Do not panic and DO NOT try to make the person sick!
If you think an animal has eaten a poisonous plant, get them along to the vet as soon as possible and, again, remember to take along samples of the plant concerned.
Better safe than sorry:
Really, as I said at the start, the chances of anyone poisoning themselves in this country are very slight, so please don’t be concerned! In addition, if you follow these few simple guidelines and all should be well!
- If it is not a food plant, do not eat it!
- Teach children not to play with or eat growing plants
- Use gloves when pruning or weeding and keep skin covered
- Do not leave prunings or uprooted plants in reach of farm animals or pets
- Check plant labels for toxicity warnings (sometimes stated on label)
Plant poisons information
The RHS website www.rhs.org.uk has an extensive list of harmful plants, so I’d suggest you refer to that if you want to check out your existing plants, or are considering buying new ones, and you have a young child or wayward pet!
For information about particular risks presented by potentially harmful plants, try the following contacts.
RHS Gardening Advice Service – tel: (0845) 260 8000, 10am to 4pm
Kew Gardens – tel: (020) 8332 5000