Q & A Library
Danger in the Garden?
I've recently moved into a house with a big, beautifully planted backyard, but I know nothing about garden plants. Are there any potentially harmful outdoor plants that I should identify and try to remove in order to protect my kids and my dog?
Answer (Published 4/23/2007)
Although some plants ARE poisonous if ingested and others (such as poison ivy/oak) can cause trouble if you contact them, most common garden plants present no dangers. For a comprehensive look at poisonous plants, I recommend the second edition of the Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants, by Lewis Nelson, M.D., Richard Shih, M.D., and Michael Balick, Ph.D. Beautifully illustrated and easy to read, the book includes all the toxic house and garden plants you might encounter and tells you, how they can affect you.
Here are a few you should look out for. Don’t take any chances: call your local poison control center if a child or pet or anyone ingests any of these plants.
Fortunately, plant poisonings aren’t that common. Calls to poison control centers show that incidents involving children under 6 account for only 4.6 percent of the total. In that age group, other common household items – cosmetics, cleaning products, pain killers, cough and cold medicines – all rank higher. Dr. Nelson assures me that the most common form of plant toxicity is the allergic skin reactions some species can cause if you handle them.
Enjoy your new garden, and get to know your plants. They are more likely to give you pleasure and contribute to your well-being than to cause you, your kids, and your dog any harm. Having your own garden can be a lot of fun!
Andrew Weil, M.D.
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