It’s no secret that some plants are really dangerous for children, adults, and pets. Some plants can actually kill us if we eat them, some will just make us quite ill, and some are completely harmless. Let’s set the record straight about which Christmas plants are risky, and which are just fine.
Holly: Poisonous Berries
Holly’s vibrant green leaves and bright red berries are a classic Christmas plant, but be careful including holly in your holiday decor. While the leaves are not poisonous, their sharp needle-like spines can give you a good scratch. It’s the berries that are dangerous. Holly berries contain theobromine. The more berries consumed, the sicker someone will get. If you’re decorating with holly branches, remove the berries first, even if your arrangement is out of reach. Holly berries dry out fast indoors and will fall off. It’s not worth the risk. If you suspect a child has eaten holly berries, immediately remove any bits that may still be in their mouth, give them a small drink of milk or water, and call poison control. If a pet has eaten holly berries, call your nearest emergency vet. Symptoms of holly berry consumption include: stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, a rapid pulse, and low blood pressure.
The berries and needles of yew are poisonous and can make children or pets very sick. Yews are mostly planted outdoors in landscapes and are rarely used indoors. If you suspect someone has eaten yew berries or needles, call poison control immediately. If you believe a pet has eaten yew berries or needles, call or drive them to your nearest emergency vet immediately. Symptoms of yew ingestion include: headaches, dizziness, gastrointestinal problems, breathing difficulties, trembling, convulsions, dilated pupils, and a coma.
American Mistletoe: Will make you sick
Ingesting the berries and leaves of European Mistletoe is likely to make a child sick, and has reportedly been fatal for dogs, but American Mistletoe is significantly less dangerous. Eating 5-10 berries may cause an upset tummy with nausea and vomiting. If a child or pet has eaten 5 or more berries, you may still want to call poison control and keep a close eye on them.
Amaryllis: Will make you sick
Amaryllis contains Lycorine, which will make people and pets sick. The chemical is mostly concentrated in the bulb. Eating the flowers may make a child or pet sick, but they’d have to eat quite a significant amount. Eating the bulb will definitely make a child or pet sick. If you suspect a child has eaten amaryllis flowers or bulbs, keep an eye on them. If you think they’ve eaten quite a lot, go to the emergency room. If you suspect a pet has eaten amaryllis leaves or bulbs, call the nearest emergency vet immediately. Symptoms of amaryllis ingestion include: stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and convulsions.
Cyclamen: Safe for Humans, Toxic for Pets
Similar to amaryllis, the tubers of cyclamen are toxic for pets. The flowers and leaves may make them sick. People, on the other hand, won’t get sick from eating cyclamen—but we probably wouldn’t find them very tasty, either. If you think your pet has eaten Cyclamen tubers or lots of the leaves and flowers, call your nearest emergency vet.
Unfortunately, there is a long-standing myth about poinsettias being poisonous to humans and pets. It is not true. Poinsettia is safe for people and pets. A 50-pound child would need to eat nearly 500 leaves to actually experience any real danger. Ingesting a leaf or two should not cause a problem for any pets, kids, or adults. If you think your pet has eaten several poinsettia leaves, keep an eye on them. It might irritate their stomach enough to make them throw up, but they should be fine after. If they continue to vomit, call your emergency vet. Dehydration from throwing up is more dangerous than eating the poinsettia itself.
Christmas Cactus: Safe
Christmas Cactus is non-toxic and safe for kids and pets, though for the sake of the plant, it’s still best to keep them out of reach of children and pets.
African Violets: Safe
African Violets are also non-toxic and safe for kids and pets. They won’t appreciate being chewed on though, so it’s still a good idea to keep them out of reach. Share this information with your friends this holiday season to decorate with kid-friendly and pet-safe houseplants—and help dispel a few myths!
If you’ve just learned that you can safely have a poinsettia in your home, come visit our garden center in Bettendorf. We’ve got plenty of gorgeous varieties for you to choose from.