Dangerous Holiday Plants

Holiday plants around the home can be dangerous.

The festive atmosphere imparted by the many common household decorations or gifts around the holiday season can consist of decorative plants or plant materials, and most of these holiday plants are actually poisonous to a degree.  The two most common and more toxic of these plants are holly and mistletoe, mostly due in part to the dried berries of both plants that can fall off and land where children or pets can eat them. While all of mistletoe is toxic, but eating one or two berries is relatively safe. Consuming more than two holly berries can cause serious illness and it only takes about 20 berries to kill a child. If you are hanging mistletoe in your home, placing it in some kind of netting can keep any loose or rotting berries contained and out of the reach of children and pets.

Ingesting amaryllis bulbs, large numbers of pyracantha berries and parts of cedar, pines, spruces or other coniferous trees can cause abdominal pain and skin irritation. The Jerusalem cherry ingestion can cause serious side effects like vomiting, hallucinations and seizures, which can be caused by eating any part of the plant. The Jequirity bean or rosary pea are dangerous if chewed and they can be life-threatening. If they are swallowed whole the risk is less.

Surprisingly, poinsettias are not as poisonous as commonly thought. While they can cause a slight rash or stomach irritation if the leaves are consumed, they do not, contrary to popular belief, pose a lethal threat. This information has been available since the 1970s, but because of the widespread belief that poinsettias are toxic, many families are hesitant to have them in the home.

Some non-toxic alternatives to these plants that are safe to give as gifts or decorate your home with include violets, spider plants, coleus and Christmas cactus.


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