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Toxic and poisonous plants are out in the landscape

Roger Boddaert

Special to the Village News

Do you know that there are a group of plants that lurk out in the garden, that have many toxic components, and are poisonous?

Toxic plants are out in the world, but many of them that we cultivate and admire have some hidden qualities to be aware of.

We cannot live without the plant kingdom for they give us the oxygen that we breathe, they give us beauty, medicines, food, and are good for our souls, but beware, for there are some that just might be harmful to your health, and your pets.

Most plants look and smell nice, and give you seasonal interest, but the small list below defines those that carry some hidden toxins and are a few of the common ones that are poisonous.

· Oleander: A landscape plant that has been utilized by the millions in our Southern California gardens and is a very drought tolerant plant with flowers in pink, red, white. A single leaf if eaten by a child can be lethal.

· Sago cycad: It is not a palm as so widely touted but related to the pine family with a prehistoric background. All parts of this plant are toxic, especially the large brown seeds, if fallen to the ground and eaten by family dogs, cats, goats, it can be a killer to your pets.

· Fire sticks: It is in the Euphorbia family like Poinsettia. The white latex-like sap can be an irritant to the skin, and a toxin to the eyes, potentially leading to blindness. Be careful with this plant, which can be harmful to your health.

· Castor bean: Both the green and red forms contain ricin which ingested can be deadly. The seeds when mature look like jellybeans which some children might be drawn to.

· Hydrangea: A flowering summer garden plant with large pom-pom flowers in red, pink, purple, blue and variations in its foliage. If the stems or leaves are eaten, it can cause abdominal pain, dizziness, confusion and even a coma.

· Poison ivy: This native twining vine is often found growing in creeks, streams and abundant in oak woodlands. The three lobed leaves are a giveaway climbing up native plants. In fall these plants turn autumn colors of red, orange and yellows. Very toxic to skin and irritable by itching. Don't burn the stems and leaves after clearing out, for if the smoke gets into your lungs, it is miserable.

· Plumbago: The blue flowering plant is a colorful plant for sunny spots, blooming at the end of summer and into fall. Be careful not to get any of the juices on your skin when pruning or cutting back. The sap can cause blisters, and rashes which itch a lot.

· Jimson weed: This low growing plant can be found in open fields, with white flowers at the end of summer into fall, then dies down. If cattle, horses, or any animal eats this plant, it can be deadly.

· Datura: The angel trumpet plant can grow large out in the landscape, with golden flowers like hanging pendants; give it space. A hallucinogen compound is found in the roots and if ingested in large amounts can cause a psychedelic trauma.

Roger Boddaert, The Tree Man of Fallbrook, can be reached at 760-728-4297.


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