Poisons in the Garden

Poisons in the Garden

Mr. Yuk in the garden
By Sandra Gidman

Beware of the evils in the garden. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but beauty may be wearing a cape of death. A young child or pet does not know what is poisonous in the garden. Master Gardeners can help instruct children and parents alike about the hidden dangers in the yard, garden and woods.

  • Poison in the back yard. Start in the vegetable garden with three common vegetables – the leaves of rhubarb, tomatoes and potatoes are poisonous if eaten. Not just the leaves of the potato, but if the potato is green or has spouts, do not eat it. The sprout is the beginning of a new potato plant – new poisonous leaves will come from these. The sprout is also known as the eye of the potato.
  • Poisonous to the touch. Common poison ivy (Rhus toxicodendron) and poison sumac (R. vernix) are found in woodlands, twining around trees and fence posts. The sap from the roots, as well as the leaves, are poisonous to the touch. Some people are highly allergic to these plants and should learn early in life how to identify the leaf.
  • Poisonous bulbs, berries and seeds. Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis), hollies (Ilex spp.), hyacinth bulbs (Hyacinthus orientalis), and lupine seeds (Lupinus spp.) are all poisonous.
  • Poisonous ornamental plants that can be fatal if eaten. All parts of autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale), bittersweet (Celastrus scandens), bleeding hearts (Dicentra spp.), boxwood (Buxus sempervirens), daffodils (Narcissus spp.), English ivy (Hedera helix), flowering tobacco (Nicotiana alata), horse chestnut (Aesculus x carnea), hydrangeas (Hydrangea spp.), mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), rhododendrons and azaleas (both Rhododendron spp.), and Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), Bleeding Heart (Dicentra Spectabilis)are poisonous.

An excellent resource for identifying poisonous plants is the “AMA Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants” by Dr. Kenneth F. Lampe and Mary Ann McCann.
Source: Rodales all-new Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening.

Sandra Gidman of Sheridan, Indiana, is a Hamilton County Master Gardener and has 21 years of gardening experience. This article first appeared in the Noblesville Daily Ledger, October, 1997.