Toxic Houseplants

Houseplants are considered third, behind medicines and household chemicals, in poisoning among children. This fact is something that should be considered when thinking about decorating your home with houseplants, especially if children or pets also reside in your home.

The toxicities found in houseplants can damage the stomach, heart, kidneys and other organs. These toxicities range from dermatitis to alkaloid lycorine and include glycosides, oxalates and solanine. Dermatitis is a condition where coming in contact with the houseplant may cause a rash or inflammation to the skin or mucous membrane. Glycosides when ingested, causes cardiac stimulation, gastric distress and is an irritant to the mouth and gastrointestinal tract.

Oxalate salts are found in certain houseplants and when ingested, these will cause mucous membrane irritation and pain as well as swelling of the mouth, lips, tongue, esophagus and stomach. Solanine is another condition that occurs when ingesting houseplants. This causes irritation and injury to the digestive tract, abdominal cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, trembling, weakness and unconsciousness.

The list of toxic houseplants is long, and surely incomplete as more and more plants are brought in from outdoors and used to help create a more beautiful space inside. Here is just some of these houseplants that should be watched carefully.

Alocasia species, including Elephant’s Ear, Cabeza de Burro, Malanga de Jardin, Malanga Cara de Chivo, Chine Ape, Papao-Apaka, Papao-Atolong and Taro, are generally erect perennial with long stemmed, spearhead-shaped leaves. The flowers appear on a greenish stem. The toxic parts of these houseplants are the leaves and stems when ingested. Ingesting these houseplants will cause painful burning of the lips, mouth, tongue and throat.

Caladium bicolor, including Caladium, Angel Wings, Caladio, Cananga, Capotillo, Couer Saignant, Corazon de Cabrito, Heart-of-Jesus, Lagrimas de Maria, and Paleta de Pinto, are showy, variegated, heart-shaped leaves. Color varies from white to orange to red. The entire plant is toxic on these plants if ingested. The lips, mouth and throat will be intensely irritated if these plants are ingested.

Dieffenbachia species, including Dumbcane, Camilichigue, Mother-in-Law Plant and Dumb Plant are tall, erect plants that have large oblong leaves, blotched with ivory markings. The leaves are toxic on these plants when chewed on. Intense pain followed by the mouth swelling will occur immediately after chewing on the leaf.

Epipremnum anreum, including Pothos, Amapalo Amarillo, Devil’s Ivy, Golden Ceylon Creeper, Golden Hunter’s Robe, Golden Pothos, Hunter’s Robe, Ivy Arum, Malanga Trepadora, Solomon Island Ivy, Taro Vine, Variegated Philodendron, are climbing vines with large heart-shaped leaves, usually streaked with yellow. The entire plant is toxic when ingested and will cause diarrhea and a burning sensation in the mouth. These plants can also cause dermatitis when touched.

Euphorbia lacteal, which is Candelabra Cactus, is toxic when the leaves, stems and milky sap are ingested, causing severe irritation of the mouth, throat and skin as well as temporary blindness, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain.

Euphorbia marginata, which is Snow-on-the-Mountain, is toxic when the leaves, stems and milky sap are touched or ingested, causing blistering of the skin, severe irritation of the mouth, throat and stomach, nausea, abdominal pain, fainting and diarrhea.

Euphorbia pulcherrima, including Poinsettia, Christmas Flower, Christmas Star and the Easter Star are toxic when the leaves, stems and milky sap are touched or ingested, causing dermatitis, or gastritis.

Philodendron is toxic when the leaves are ingested or touched, causing painful burning of the lips, mouth, tongue and throat or dermatitis.

Solanum pseudocapsicum, including Jerusalem Cherry and Coral, are toxic when any of the plants, including the berries are ingested and will cause gastric irritation, diarrhea, fever and a scratchy throat.

Zantedeschia aethiopica, including Calla, Calla Lily and Lirio Cala are toxic when the leaves are ingested or touched, causing severe burning of the lips and mouth as well as dermatitis.

As mentioned earlier, this is only a few of the plants that are found in houses today. When considering adding one of these plants to your houseplant collection, you should access the dangers that are associated with them.

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