Know the poisonous plants around your yard
Adults aren't likely to dine on poisonous plants in our yard, but others might - children or pets. "But," you say, "I certainly don't have any poisonous plants." Of course, I assume you know that rhubarb leaves are toxic? They are; don't chew on ...
Adults aren't likely to dine on poisonous plants in our yard, but others might - children or pets. "But," you say, "I certainly don't have any poisonous plants." Of course, I assume you know that rhubarb leaves are toxic? They are; don't chew on the leaves at the ends of the edible stalks.
I found a lethal weed near my back door this spring and it was already large when I discovered it. I was unpleasantly astonished to see that it was a member of the nightshade (Solanum) family, and a poisonous weed. I have no idea where it came from, but it probably proves that bird droppings bring strange plants. It was a viney, clambery type with tiny white flowers that soon turned into black berries. The leaves were quite handsome. It's not there any longer.
Some nightshades have berries that turn from green to red, and others have black berries. In the lake area, you can find them where the ground has been disturbed. All are toxic.
Thinking about poisonous plants in the yard made me realize how easy it would be for kids to "try the berries," and even if you admonish the older ones not to do so, the littler ones may not get it. In fact, I've even seen adults nibbling absently on parts of strange plants.
Perhaps not too many are going to taste leaves, but there is always a chance, and at the lake, you might want to know which plants are unsafe.
According to a circular published years ago by Ciba-Geigy, here are some found in our area.
One of the most surprising is oak, the foliage and acorns. It is said that eating these causes kidney poisoning which comes on slowly after several days or weeks. It takes a large amount for poisoning, but children should not be allowed to chew on acorns.
Another is Jack in the pulpit. All parts - especially the roots - contain small needle-like crystals of calcium oxalate that cause intense irritation and burning of the mouth and tongue.
Then there a few garden flowers: morning glory seeds, if chewed; angel's trumpet, the plant with large fragrant white flowers that bloom at night; larkspur, the young plants and the seeds; monkshood, a beautiful perennial that has poisonous roots; lily of the valley, leaves and flowers; bleeding heart, foliage and roots; iris, underground stems only, not poisonous but causes stomach upset; foxgloves, the leaves; hyacinths and daffodils, the bulbs.
In house plants, oleander and dieffenbachia are toxic. Oleanders are extremely poisonous, both the foliage and the branches. Dieffenbachia carries the name dumbcane, because if any of its parts are chewed, intense burning and irritation of the mouth and tongue result. If the base of the tongue swells enough to block the air passage in the throat, it can be fatal.
The rate of poisoning from plants is faster than you might think. If poisoning seems evident, call the poison control department at the nearest hospital right away.
It is surprising that some of the plants we love have to carry such dire results, but I guess nothing is perfectly safe. I am puzzled that our forefathers got along as well as they did. They probably were more careful than we think.
Collins is The Forum's garden columnist. Write to her by mail at The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo ND 58107, or direct e-mail to her at firstname.lastname@example.org