This post was originally posted on another defunct blog.



Rhododendron—beautiful but poisonous—so are the cousin plants azaleas and laurel shrubs.
When I was a preteen, can’t remember my exact age, I caught a bad case of poison ivy, most likely from walking in the woods. I was miserable for two weeks, and literally covered head to toe in red, blistered, and oozing skin to the point I was physically ill. By the time I recovered, I was very careful to look about me when in the wild for those leaves of three. For years I suffered hypersensitivity to the plant, but now, not so much. I’ve known others who could walk through the stuff in shorts and pull the vines from trees with their bare hands with no effect. Since becoming a garden enthusiast, I’ve learned all those sappy or scent-laden plants can pose dangers to certain people.

While individuals quickly learn any fruit and vegetable they are allergic to, they are often less aware of the dangers in their yards, flower gardens, or inside among the houseplants. Some plants are fatally poisonous; others just make a person very ill, or cause severe dermatitis. Most gardeners know the ‘dangerous’ plants, those so poisonous they watch their grandchildren don’t pick or eat them. Any of these plants can be fatal: caster bean seeds, the twigs and leaves of cherry trees, delphinium, foxglove (digitalis), hemlock (looks similar to queen ann’s lace), jasmine berries, all parts of the jimson weed, larkspur (the annual delphinium), aconitum or monkshood, oeleander berries, and the leafy parts of rhubarb and tomatoes. Yet, do home owners know the ubiquitous yew shrub in their landscaping can also be fatally poisonous?

These are often the most toxic plants, mostly due to the various alkaloids they produce. Other plants, which most gardeners don’t expect to cause trouble, do. Plant parts like the bulbs of many of those lovely spring flowers including daffodils and hyacinth. The milky saps from certain plants like milkweed can cause skin problems for some people. Another hazard? Scent. A vase containing Stargazer or Casa Blanca lilies with their strong, sweet smell, can induce migraines in susceptible people (me). The best way to prevent accidental problems is to know your plants. One of the best sources I’ve found for poisonous garden plants is North Carolina State University’s Poisonous Plants web pages. Michigan State University has a downloadable file of 21 of the most hazardous native or wild plants. While both list only local varieties for their local, these plants are common to many other areas.