Especially in areas with kids, pets, and livestock, it's important to know what garden plants could be harmful if touched or ingested. Here are a few you need to know about.

By Jenny Krane
August 08, 2018

Word has traveled fast about giant hogweed, the toxic garden plant that can be mistaken for Queen Anne's lace. There are many garden plants that have poisonous leaves, berries, and stems. Here are a handful of dangerous plants to be aware of, especially in households with kids and pets.

Oleander

Oleander is a dense flowering shrub with narrow pointed leaves that look like olive branches. Attractive pink, white, or red flowers bloom in summer. All parts of an oleander bush are toxic if ingested, including dried flowers and sap. Contact with the foliage and flowers can also cause skin irritation, and smoke from burning debris is toxic. Even though oleander is poisonous, you don't have to dig up every oleander in your yard—as long as it is planted in a safe place in the garden and gloves and long sleeves are worn when pruning, you can leave this bush in your landscaping.

English Yew

These plants are tolerant of many conditions and are nearly indestructible to drought, shade, sun, and soggy soil. Although they are an ideal choice for creating hedges, all parts of English yew plants are poisonous but the fleshy part of its red berries (the seeds within the berries are still toxic). Birds are able to pass the seeds, but other wildlife, like deer, cannot. Plant this shrub in a thoughtful and methodical place where the chance of harming animals or curious kids is slim.

Rhubarb

Known for its ruby red stalks that make delicious pies, crumbles, and tarts, rhubarb is a fun edible to grow in the garden. But beware—the leaves contain oxalic acid. When ingested, the leaves can cause a burning sensation in the mouth and throat and can cause trouble breathing. To avoid these unpleasant side effects, discard the leaves as soon as possible after harvesting so the stalk won't be contaminated.

Foxglove

Foxglove is a stalk-flower favorite. The cup-shape flowers come in many colors and patterns, and the plants are a great option for adding height to the garden. Some elements of foxglove are used in heart medications, but eating any part of this toxic flower could cause the heart to slow or beat irregularly, making it extremely dangerous if ingested.

Jimsonweed

Jimsonweed is an annual herbaceous plant that also goes by the name devil's snare. It has white trumpet-shape flowers with purple color toward the center. All parts of the plant are poisonous, especially the leaves and seeds.

Wolf's Bane

These perennials are one of the few that have true blue blooms. Also called monkshood, wolf's bane is deer-resistant and makes for good cut flowers. Eating any part of a wolf's bane plant can result in gastrointestinal and cardiac issues.

Castor Bean

These dramatic perennials have large, lobed leaves and pincushion-like seedpods. Castor bean contains the deadly compound ricin in all parts of the plant, especially the seeds. Two more warnings: The sap may cause skin sensitivity, and the pollen of the blooms is highly allergenic.

Lily of the Valley

The little bell-shape white flowers are unmistakable—but this flowering groundcover is toxic if consumed. Lily of the valley is an herbaceous perennial that also grows red-orange berries. All parts of this plant are poisonous and can cause blurry vision, digestive issues, and altered heart rhythm.


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