As we excitedly fill our homes with trees, lights, decorations, flowers and gifts during the Christmas season, it’s worth bearing in mind that some Christmas/holiday plants and flowers are poisonous and may potentially cause issues for young children and pets. Here’s our (non-exhaustive) list of 6 poisonous Christmas plants to avoid or keep out of the reach of young children and pets.
Some species of mistletoe are more dangerous than others. However, as a precaution, treat any mistletoe brought into the house as potentially harmful to children and pets.
The leaves and berries of European mistletoe are poisonous as they contain several chemicals (eg. alkaloid tyramine) that can cause severe gastrointestinal problems. Dogs may die from ingesting it.
North american mistletoe contain phoratoxin which can cause nausea, vomiting, stomachaches, diarrhorea, blurred vision, slower heart rate and a lowered blood pressure.
Holly contains saponin glycosides, methylxanthines and cyanogens which can cause symptoms such as hypersalivation (drooling), loss of appetite and vomiting. Theobromine is also found in holly berries. (This chemical, which is in chocolate, is toxic to dogs.)
Poinsettias were previously believed to be very toxic. However, research in recent years have shown that it is not particularly dangerous. You may feel ill or nauseous if you have eaten a few leaves. Also, rubbing the sap from the plant into your skin can give you an itchy rash. Beyond that, this plant is unlikely to cause a problem for either humans or pets. Having said that, it is still worthwhile ensuring that it is out of the reach of young children and pets.
Cyclamens grow an underground stem or tuber called a rhizome. There is a concentration of chemicals in the tubers. These chemicals, known as triterpenoid saponins, are toxic. While the leaves and flowers also contain the toxin, they have them in much lower concentrations. Although it’s unlikely that a pet or child will get to the tuber, there is still the remote risk of the pot being knocked over or the soil being dug up by a pet.
Cyclamen poisoning may result in severe vomiting and diarrhorea, which is accompanied by significant fluid loss from the body. Furthermore, it may cause abnormal heart rhythm and seizures.
Amaryllis contains a toxin known as lycorine, which is found mainly in the bulb of the plant. Eating bulb tissue (or a very large amount of leaf or flower tissue) can cause stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, diarrhorea, tremors and convulsions.
Yew contains chemicals called taxines that quickly cause an irregular heartbeat after being eaten. The alteration in the heart rate can be life-threatening. Yew poisoning can also cause a headache, dizziness, gastrointestinal problems, breathing difficulties, trembling, convulsions, dilated pupils, and a coma.
Alternatives to Plants
If you were thinking, ‘What a damper! I was looking forward to having some of these in my house this Christmas!’, here are some alternatives:
- Artificial plants & silk flower arrangements
- Pop-up paper arrangements
Also, if you have not figured what to buy for your plant loving friend or family member, check out our selection of gift ideas!
This ends our blog post on poisonous Christmas plants. Let us know how you go with your child-safe and pet-safe Christmas celebrations by sending us your photos. We would be more than happy to feature them on Facebook or Instagram!