Chisago County Master Gardener
Many of the ideas for these articles come from questions our readers ask. After receiving a couple calls on hazardous holiday plants, I put together this information.
The poinsettia, everyone’s favorite holiday plant, has gotten a bum rap for a number of years. It’s been falsely accused of being poisonous, yet no deaths from this plant have ever been recorded.
If ingested, the poinsettia can irritate the mouth and stomach, sometimes resulting in diarrhea or vomiting. But that’s as far as it goes. The Osceola Veterinary Service gave me a paper on 17 plants poisonous to pets. Poinsettia was not on the list.
I was surprised to read that lilies are considered highly toxic to cats. While the poisonous component has not been identified, it is clear that ingestion of very small amounts can cause severe kidney damage.
The bows of the yew are sometimes used as decorations for the holiday season. Yews contain a toxic component known as taxine, which if eaten can cause central nervous system effects including trembling, incoordination and difficult breathing. Taxine can also cause significant gastrointestinal irritation and even cardiac failure, which can result in death.
The peace lily contains calcium oxalate. Pets who ingest this can experience oral irritation, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty in swallowing, and intense burning and irritation of the mouth, lips and tongue.
English Ivy is on the poisonous plant list because it contains triterpenoid saponins. Pets ingesting ivy can experience vomiting, abdominal pain, hyper salivation and diarrhea.
Other poisonous plants on the veterinary list include tulip and narcissus bulbs, azaleas, oleander, castor beans, cyclamen, amaryllis, autumn crocus and mums. There are other plants poisonous to pets, but these are the most frequently encountered.
Poisonous plants are only part of the danger in the home regarding pets and children. For a longer list of dangerous chemicals in the home, call your local veterinary clinic or the University of Minnesota Veterinary College at 612-625-9711.
For an online list of toxic plants, visit www.aspca.org.
There is a charge to call the Pet Poison Helpline or ASPCA Animal Poison Control.