Potentially harmful garden plants

Serious poisoning by plants is very uncommon in the UK. Some garden plants present a hazard, but the risk of severe poisoning, skin reaction or allergy is generally low.

Aconitum carmichaelii Arendsii Group. Credit: RHS/Graham Titchmarsh.

Quick facts

If it is not a food plant, do not eat it.
Teach children not to play with or eat growing plants.
Use gloves when pruning or weeding and keep skin covered.
Do not leave prunings or uprooted plants in reach of farm animals or pets.
Check plant labels for toxicity warnings (sometimes stated on label).

What are the hazards?

Ingestion hazard

  • Children are mostly at risk
  • Some plants may cause digestive upset or discomfort if eaten
  • A small of number common garden plants are more toxic and could cause severe poisoning (see plant list below)

Contact hazard

  • Irritant sap may cause a burning sensation and sometimes blistering of the skin; anyone can be affected if exposure is sufficient
  • Some plants contain chemicals called allergens. These do not affect everyone, but some individuals may acquire sensitivity to them, resulting in an allergic reaction
  • A very small number of plants have sap which renders the skin excessively sensitive to strong sunlight. Contact with the plant followed by exposure to sunlight results in very severe, localised sunburn with blistering and long-lasting skin discoloration

What to do if there's a problem...

Human ingestion or skin contact

  • If you think a child or adult has eaten part of a doubtful plant, seek medical advice immediately from a hospital Accident & Emergency department
  • Take a sample of the plant with you
  • Do not panic and DO NOT try to make the person sick

Animal ingestion

  • Seek veterinary advice if you think an animal has eaten a poisonous plant
  • Take along samples of the plant concerned

Links

RSPCA (dogs, cats and horses)
Feline Advisory Bureau (cats)

Plant Poisons Information

For information about particular risks presented by potentially harmful plants, try the following contacts.

RHS Gardening Advice Service – tel: (0845) 260 8000, 10am to 4pm

Kew Gardens – tel: (020) 8332 5000

Plant Poisons Information is available from the Centre for Economic Botany in office hours. A Botanist may not always be available to take the call.
General non-urgent enquiries about poisonous plants can be sent by email to plant-poisons@kew.org

Plants potentially harmful to people

This list of plants mirrors the HTA (Horticultural Trades Association) guidelines and includes garden plants and houseplants that have been known to cause injury, either by contact or after being eaten.

All these plants are safe to grow provided they are treated with respect. Remember, they are ornamental plants, often very beautiful - they are not meant to be eaten. Avoid contamination by wearing gloves and covering your skin.

Acalypha  (Chenille plant, copperleaf)- skin & eye irritant; poisonous
Acokanthera (Bushman’s poison) - poisonous
Aconitum (Monkshood) - poisonous; irritant to and via the skin
Actaea section Actaea (Baneberry) - poisonous; irritant to and via the skin
Aesculus (Horse chestnut) - somewhat poisonous
Aglaonema (Chinese evergreen) - poisonous; skin irritant
Agrostemma githago (Corncockle) - somewhat poisonous
alder buckthorn - see Rhamnus
Allamanda
- poisonous; skin & eye irritant
Alocasia (taro) -  poisonous; skin & eye irritant
Aloe - poisonous
Alstroemeria (Peruvian lily) - skin irritant
Amaryllis - see Hippeastrum
Amaryllis belladona
(Belladonna lily) - poisonous
Angel’s trumpet - see Brugmansia
Angel’s wings - see Caladium
Anthurium (Flamingo flower) - poisonous; skin & eye irritant
Apocynum (Dogbane) -  poisonous
Arisaema (Cobra-lily) - poisonous; skin & eye irritant
arrowhead vine - see Syngonium
Arum
(Cuckoo-pint, lords-and-ladies) - poisonous; skin & eye
irritant
Asparagus (Asparagus fern) - may cause skin allergy, fruits
poisonous
Asparagus fern See Asparagus
Atropa (Deadly nightshade) - poisonous; skin irritant
Autumn crocus See Colchicum
Baneberry - see Actaea section Actaea
Belladonna lily - see Amaryllis belladona
Bluebell - see Hyacinthoides
Bottle gourd - see Lagenaria
Brugmansia
(Angel’s trumpet) - poisonous
Brunfelsia (Yesterday, today and tomorrow) - poisonous
Buckthorn See Rhamnus
Bunny ears cactus - see Opuntia microdasys
Burning bush - see Dictamnus
Bushman’s poison - see Acokanthera
Caladium (Angel’s wings) - poisonous
Calico bush - see Kalmia
Calla lily - see Zantedeschia
Calla palustris (Water arum) - poisonous; skin & eye irritant
Capsicum annum (Ornamental pepper cultivars)- skin & eye irritant;
poisonous
Castor oil plant - see Ricinus communis
Celandine, greater - see Chelidonium majus
Chalice vine - see Solandra
Chaste tree - see Vitex
Chelidonium majus (Greater celandine) -  poisonous; skin & eye
irritant
Chenille plant - see Acalypha
Cherry laurel - see Prunus laurocerasus
Chincherinchee - see Ornithogalum
Chinese evergreen - see Aglaonema
Christmas cherry - see Solanum pseudocapsicum
Chrysanthemum - skin irritant
Cobra-lily See Arisaema
Colchicum (Autumn crocus) - poisonous
Colocasia esculenta (Dasheen, eddo, taro) - poisonous; skin & eye
irritant
Comfrey, Russian comfrey - see Symphytum
Convallaria majalis
(Lily-of-the-valley) - poisonous
Copperleaf - see Acalypha
Coriaria - poisonous
Corncockle - see Agrostemma githago
Crepe jasmine - see Tabernaemontana
Cuckoo-pint - see Arum
x Cuprocyparis leylandii (Leyland cypress) - skin irritant
Daffodil - see Narcissus
Daphne (Mezereon, Spurge laurel) - poisonous; skin irritant
Dasheen - see Colocasia esculenta
Datura (thornapple) - poisonous; skin irritant
Deadly nightshade - see Atropa
Delphinium
including Consolida (Larkspur) - poisonous
Dendranthema - see Chrysanthemum
Devil’s ivy - see Epipremnum
Dictamnus (burning bush) - skin irritant
Dieffenbachia (Dumb cane, Leopard lily) - poisonous; skin & eye irritant
Digitalis (foxglove) - poisonous
Dogbane - see Apocynum
Dracunculus
(Dragon arum) - poisonous; skin & eye irritant
Dragon arum - see Dracunculus
Dumb cane - see Dieffenbachia
Echium - skin irritant
Eddo - see Colocasia esculenta
Elder - see Sambucus
Epipremnum (Devil’s ivy) - poisonous; skin & eye irritant
Euonymus (Spindle tree) - somewhat poisonous
Euphorbia (Spurge, poinsettia) - poisonous; skin & eye irritant,
 NB: poinsettia, E. pulcherrima, is not harmful
False hellebore - see Veratrum
False jasmine - see Gelsemium
Ficus benjamina (Weeping fig) - may cause skin allergy
Ficus carica (fig) - skin & eye irritant
Fig - see Ficus
Flamingo flower - see Anthurium
Four o’clock plant - see Mirabilis
Foxglove - see Digitalis
Frangula
- see Rhamnus
Fremontodendron
- skin & eye irritant
Gaultheria section Pernettya - somewhat poisonous
Gelsemium (False jasmine) - poisonous
German primula - see Primula obconica
Gloriosa superba (Glory lily) - poisonous
Glory lily - see Gloriosa superba
Goosefoot vine - see Syngonium
Hedera (ivy) - somewhat poisonous; skin irritant
Hellebore, false - see Veratrum
Helleborus (Christmas rose, Lenten rose) - somewhat poisonous;
 skin irritant
Hemlock water-dropwort - see Oenanthe
Henbane - see Hyoscyamus
Heracleum mantegazzianum (Giant hogweed) - severe skin irritant
in bright sunlight
Hippeastrum (Amaryllis) - poisonous
Hogweed, giant - see Heracleum mantegazzianum
Homeria - poisonous
Horse chestnut - see Aesculus
Hyacinthoides (Bluebell) - poisonous
Hyacinth - see Hyacinthus
Hyacinthus (Hyacinth) - skin irritant
Hyoscyamus (Henbane) - poisonous
Hypericum perforatum (perforate St John’s wort) - poisonous
Ipomoea (Morning glory) - poisonous
Iris - somewhat poisonous; skin irritant
Ivy - see Hedera
Japanese lacquer tree - see Rhus
Jasmine, false - see Gelsemium
Kalmia (Calico bush) - somewhat poisonous
+ Laburnocytisus ‘Adamii’ - poisonous
Laburnum - poisonous
Lagenaria (Bottle gourd) - poisonous
Lantana - poisonous; skin irritant
Larkspur - see Delphinium
Laurel - see Prunus laurocerasus
Lenten rose - see Helleborus
Leopard lily - see Dieffenbachia
Leyland cypress - see x Cupressocyparis leylandii
Ligustrum
(privet) - somewhat poisonous
Lily-of-the-valley - see Convallaria majalis
Lobelia (except bedding lobelia, L. erinus) - somewhat poisonous;
skin & eye irritant
Locust tree - see Robinia pseudoacacia
Lords-and-ladies - see Arum
Lupin - see Lupinus
Lupinus
(Lupin) - somewhat poisonous
Lysichiton (Skunk cabbage) - poisonous; skin & eye irritant
Mandragora (Mandrake) - poisonous
Mandrake - see Mandragora
Marvel of Peru - see Mirabilis
May apple - see Podophyllum
Mezereon - see Daphne
Mirabilis
(Marvel of Peru, Four o’clock plant) - poisonous; skin
irritant
Monkshood  - see Aconitum
Monstera deliciosa (Swiss cheese plant) - poisonous; skin & eye irritant
Morning glory - see Ipomoea
Narcissus
(Daffodil) - somewhat poisonous; skin irritant
Nerium oleander (Oleander) - poisonous
Nicotiana (Tobacco) - poisonous
Oenanthe crocata, O. aquatica, O. phellandrium (Hemlock water-
Dropwort, Water dropwort) - poisonous
Oleander - see Nerium oleander
Oleander, yellow - see Thevetia
Opium poppy - see Papaver somniferum
Opuntia microdasys (Bunny ears cactus) - skin irritant
Ornithogalum (Chincherinchee, Star-of-Bethlehem) - somewhat
Poisonous; skin irritant
Pagoda tree - see Sophora
Papaver somniferum
(Opium poppy) - poisonous
Passiflora caerulea (Hardy passion flower) - somewhat poisonous
Passion flower - see Passiflora caerulea
Peace lily - see Spathiphyllum
Pedilanthus
- skin & eye irritant; poisonous
Pepper, ornamental - see Capsicum annum
Pernettya - see Gaultheria
Peruvian lily - see Alstroemeria
Philodendron - poisonous; skin & eye irritant
Phytolacca (Pokeweed) - poisonous; skin irritant
Podophyllum (May apple) - poisonous
Poinsettia - see Euphorbia
Poison ivy - see Rhus
Pokeweed - see Phytolacca
Polygonatum (Solomon’s seal) - somewhat poisonous
Polyscias - poisonous; skin irritant
Portugal laurel - see Prunus lusitanica
Primula obconica (German primula) - skin irritant
Privet - see Ligustrum
Prunus laurocerasus
(Cherry laurel, laurel) - poisonous
Prunus lusitanica (Portugal laurel) - seed kernels are poisonous
Rhamnus including Frangula (Alder buckthorn, Buckthorn) –
poisonous; skin irritant
Rhaphidophora - poisonous; skin & eye irritant
Rhus verniciflua,R. radicans, R. succedanea, R. diversiloba,
R. rydbergii,R. striata, R. toxicarium, R. vernix
(Japanese
lacquer tree, Poison ivy, Sumach) - poisonous; severe skin
irritant
Ricinus communis (Castor oil plant) - poisonous
Robinia pseudoacacia (Locust tree) - poisonous
Ruta (rue) - severe skin irritant in bright sunlight
St John’s wort - see Hypericum perforatum
Sambucus except S. nigra (elder) - poisonous
Schefflera (Umbrella tree) - skin irritant
Scilla - somewhat poisonous
Scopolia - poisonous
Skunk cabbage - see Lysichiton
Snowberry - see Symphoricarpos
Solandra
(Chalice vine) - poisonous
Solanum - poisonous
Solanum pseudocapsicum (Christmas cherry, Winter cherry) - poisonous
Solomon’s seal - See Polygonatum
Sophora (Pagoda tree) - poisonous
Spanish broom - see Spartium junceum
Spartium junceum (Spanish broom) - poisonous
Spathiphyllum (Peace lily) - poisonous; skin & eye irritant
Spindle tree - see Euonymus
Spurge - see Euphorbia
Spurge laurel - see Daphne
Star-of-Bethlehem - see Ornithogalum
Sumach - see Rhus
Swiss cheese plant - See Monstera deliciosa
Symphoricarpos (Snowberry) - poisonous
Symphytum (Comfrey, Russian comfrey) - poisonous
Syngonium (Arrowhead vine, Goosefoot vine) - poisonous; skin &
eye irritant
Tobacco - see Nicotiana
Tabernaemontana
(Crepe jasmine) - poisonous
Taro – see Alocasia, Colocasia
Taxus (yew) - poisonous
Thevetia (Yellow oleander) - poisonous; skin irritant
Thornapple - see Datura
Tulip - see Tulipa
Tulipa (tulip) - skin irritant
Umbrella tree - see Schefflera
Veratrum (False hellebore)  - poisonous
Vitex (Chaste tree) - skin irritant
Water arum - see Calla palustris
Water-dropwort - see Oenanthe
Winter cherry - see Solanum pseudocapsicum
Wisteria - somewhat poisonous
Woody nightshade - see Solanum
Xanthosoma - poisonous; skin & eye irritant
Yesterday, today and tomorrow - see Brunfelsia
Yew - See Taxus
Zantedeschia
(Calla lily) - poisonous; skin & eye irritant

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