Common Hazardous Plants to Watch Out for This Summer
As we head out to spend more time in the garden, it's important to be aware of plants that may pose a risk to you, summer house guests, and your pets. Yes, some of the plants we highly regard for their fragrance and beauty can also be hazardous if accidental ingestion or skin contact occurs. Say, for instance, you're pruning one of these lovelies without gloves and some of the toxic oils get onto your hands, or your child secretly decides to gather flowers and make petal soup. Anything and everything from skin irritations to severe illness or even death can occur even if small amounts of certain dangerous plants are handled, nibbled, or eaten.
So, what can you do to ease the angst of a dangerous encounter outdoors? When it comes to poisonous plants, taking a few precautions is critical. Consider putting in any new plants or relocating established ones to areas less frequented by unknowing visitors, curious children, and nibbly pets. Also, when it's time to get planting, pruning, or cleaning up, be safe and prepared by always wearing proper gardening gloves, long sleeves, and protective eyewear, then wash your hands thoroughly after you're done. As an extra precaution, point out any of these serious troublemakers to family members before they get anywhere near your garden beds. If ingestion does happen, or if it's even suspected, seek medical attention right away.
While the complete list of hazardous plants is robust and worth checking out on sites like the National Capital Poison Center, here are some common plant varieties to look out for in your garden to ensure a relaxing and safe summer.
Foxglove (Digitalis Purpurea)
Tall towering spires of pink, purple, and white bell-shaped blossoms may add drama and height to your garden, but the entire plant—especially the upper leaves—are high in potent chemicals that are deadly if nibbled or ingested.
While this high-impact, low-maintenance perennial dishes out colorful clustered blooms, the entire plant contains toxic alkaloids, with the young leaves and the mature seeds being the worst.
Oleander (Nerium Oleander)
This popular evergreen shrub is a reliable choice to plant in deer-visited gardens, but the reason deer leave it alone is why we should to; the entire plant, including its nectar and gummy sap, can be deadly.
These classic shade-loving shrubs with picturesque flower clusters brighten a garden and add charm, but unfortunately, ingesting these pretty plants, especially the flower buds, are a serious no-no (eating some hydrangea is similar to popping a cyanide pill).
A diverse group of plants who hide away inside their stems a milky sap or latex that is highly toxic and irritating to our skin and eyes. The latex, of course, repels would-be predators looking for a plant meal, so from the plant's perspective, the sap is a good thing. However, to us, a few drops in our eye or on our skin can cause extreme rashes, burning, and pain. Tip: When pruning these plants be sure to wear gardening gloves and protective eyewear.
Angel Trumpet (Brugmansia Spp.)
With exotic trumpet-shaped flowers that exude an intoxicating sweetness, you might want this plant everywhere but be warned: their beauty belies the extreme toxicity of their leaves, flowers, seeds, and roots which can cause serious illness and death if consumed. And although every part is poisonous, the fruitlike seedpods and flowers pose the greatest risk because they contain the highest concentration of toxic compounds and their shape can be appealing to curious children.