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Beware of poisonous plants in the landscape

POSTED: June 29, 2011 4:00 a.m.

While most of us are familiar with common poisonous plants that cause dermatitis (skin irritations) such as poison ivy or poison oak, we fail to recognize common ornamental plants in the landscape that may cause internal poisoning when ingested.

Although most adults would not intentionally eat the leaves or fruit of ornamental plants in the landscape, young children or pets sometimes do.

You may be surprised to learn just how many of our common plants, such as azaleas, hydrangeas, boxwood and English ivy, are known to have poisonous properties.

As the saying goes "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Prevention is the best medicine to prevent toxic plant poisoning.

Internal poisons are a group of chemically different substances that when ingested:

• Act on the brain causing narcotic reactions and other mental disturbances.

• Affect the spinal cord resulting in paralysis and convulsions.

• Act as heart depressants and stimulants.

• Irritate the digestive tract and nervous system.

To help prevent plant poisonings, follow these safety tips:

• Know the names of all the plants in your landscape. If you need help identifying a plant, take a piece of it to a nursery, florist or your county extension agent.

• Label all of your plants with their names so you can identify a plant that has been eaten.

• Keep plants, seeds and bulbs out of the reach and sight of children and pets.

• Do not eat wild plants or mushrooms. Cooking poisonous plants does not make them safe to eat.

• Do not consume mushrooms growing in your landscape.

• Keep weed and insect killers in a locked cabinet, out of the reach of children and pets. Never put them in bottles used for drinking.

• Keep children and pets away from lawns newly sprayed with garden chemicals.

• Teach your children to never put any part of a plant into their mouths.

In the event of a poison emergency be prepared to give:

• The attending physician the name of plant, if known, or description (save uneaten parts).

• How long ago it was eaten.

• How much and which parts were eaten.

• Age of the individual.

• Symptoms.

For a list of common poisonous plants found in the landscape, call the extension office at (706) 265-2442.

Clark Beusse is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706) 265-2442.


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