Good Natured Gardening: Beware the poisonous plants

Did Snow White eat the poisoned apple or did she eat the poisoned apple?

If you can’t remember what you ate two nights ago, you may not remember that it was the Evil Queen who poisoned Miss White’s apples.

More importantly, how do you remember decades ago?

Clarence Schmidt

(photo courtesy)

Assumed Poison Rule: If it bites and makes you sick, it’s poisonous. It is poisonous if it bites you and makes you sick. Plants that produce toxins and plants that cause irritation are called poisonous plants. Poisons can enter the body through injection, ingestion, inhalation, or absorption.

Note: The phrase “choose your poison” applies to your favorite schnapps, not your favorite plant.

According to, “Since plants cannot move to escape predators, they need other means to defend themselves against herbivores. Some plants have thorns, thorns, There are physical defenses such as thorns, but the most common type of protection is the chemical defense.”

“Some plants are naturally toxic. Some plants become dangerous through infection with bacterial, viral, or fungal parasites. Or by toxic compounds through contaminated soil or groundwater.”

According to, many plants, such as peanuts, “produce compounds that are dangerous only to those who have had an allergic reaction. Other allergenic plants include wheat, sesame, soybeans, almonds, Brazil nuts, and cashews. Includes nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts.” Interestingly, “allergens vary by country” (source:

The remainder of this article contains samples of frequently encountered plants containing toxic parts. Excerpt included. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension:

The seeds of one apple are not usually dangerous enough, but ingesting them can raise health concerns.

The seeds of the castor oil plant contain lysine. They are one of the most poisonous plants in the world.

Cherry leaves and seeds are poisonous. Peaches and plums also have poisonous parts.

Horticultural croton roots, leaves and sap are toxic and can cause skin eczema

The poisonous sap of anthurium and poinsettia irritates the eyes and skin.

The leaf stems are edible, but rhubarb leaves are poisonous.

Nightshade is one of the most poisonous plants in the world. All parts of the plant are toxic, but the roots are the most toxic.

Like other members of the nightshade family, tomato leaves and stems are toxic when ingested.

All parts of the American mistletoe Azalea, Damcane, Angel’s Trumpet, Calla lily, Chinese wisteria, Oleander and Yew contain dangerous toxic chemicals.

Poison ivy, poison ivy, and all parts of sumac contain a highly pungent oil (urushiol) that spreads easily on clothing.

What do you get when you mix poison ivy and a four-leaf clover? Clearly, you get a rash of good luck.

The most concentrated and toxic form of the pennyroyal plant is its oil.

Lilies have water-soluble toxins that are found in all parts of the plant. Although highly toxic, it is attractive to cats and causes acute renal failure. As few as two petals can die.

Lily contains lycorine, which is poisonous.

The bleeding heart leaves and roots are poisonous and can cause spasms.

Foxglove leaves, seeds and flowers are also poisonous.

Hyacinth bulbs are poisonous and even handling the bulbs can cause skin irritation.Daffodil bulbs and stems are also poisonous.

Contact with the milky white latex of plumeria may irritate the eyes and skin.

Roots, twigs, leaves and unripe elderberry fruits are poisonous.

The North Carolina Extension warns that ingesting apricot tree stems, leaves, or seeds can lead to convulsions and respiratory failure.

Some other poisonous flowers include buttercup, euonymus, century plant, clematis, delphinium, euphorbia, hydrangea, iris, lantana, lobelia, philodendron, ranunculus, and rhododendron.

Many plants commonly used as food have toxic parts, but are safe when heated. Red kidney beans contain toxins that can be inactivated by heating.

Again, the only poison some plants have is the pesticides people spray on them.

If symptoms develop, call your doctor or the Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222.

Some of the poisonous plants are used for medicinal purposes. For example: autumn crocuses, henbane, hemlock.

For a more extensive list of safe and toxic plants, visit

Comedian George Burns supposedly said, “At my age, flowers scare me.” He lived to be 100 years old.

This article is in no way intended to discourage you from enjoying these beautiful plants.

Luckily, Prince Charming had the antidote and revived Snow White with his “love’s first kiss”, heard around the world. And all the dwarves were happy. Well, except Grumpy. Actually, only one person was really happy.

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