Gardening Vivian | 24 Jan 2010 03:12 am

Do You Know What’s in Your Garden?

Gardens are wonderful things, and the fresh produce is very healthy. Flowers are very pretty, and can lift the spirits…unless the wrong thing is eaten.

When I’ve asked people to name poisonous plants, the list they give usually contains at least two; philodendrons and poinsettias. Neither are considered a major toxin, although the latter can cause your throat to swell in the rare instances it is swallowed. The burning sensation in the mouth is usually enough to stop most people from doing so.

However, portions of the tomato, potato, egg plant and pepper plants are very dangerous, especially to small children. They are members of the nightshade family, and contain some very powerful chemicals.

Fruit trees are not immune to dangers, either. Members of the apple family contain a chemical that changes to cyanide when it hits the stomach. Other members of that family are apricot, cherry, and plum.

In the flower garden, some plants are fairly safe, such as the snapdragon and roses, while others can quickly be deadly. Monkshood (also known as aconite) and caster beans are two of the worst offenders.

Quite a few “hedge” type plants also pose dangers. Oleanders, privet and yew hedges are all very pretty in different ways, but all of them can kill. The yew is a particular problem, because of the brightly colored berries. Some animals can eat the berries without harm because they don’t have grinding teeth. The seeds pass right through them. However, once ground, the toxin is released, and it doesn’t take a lot to be deadly.

While philodendrons are a very common houseplant, there are a few others and some of them can be a problem. Kalanchoe and glory lilies both can do substantial harm if swallowed. Aloe vera can also be a problem. Even though it is sold as a beverage and a lot of people drink it, I cannot recommend that. It contains a couple of constituents that could be harmful. One can affect the heart and the other will cause painful spasms and diarrhea.

I strongly advise parents of young children to examine their house and yard for potentially problem plants. Unknown plants can be identified at a nursery. This is a wise precaution to protect the lives of our young.

Watch this website for a soon to be released book on this topic:

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