Of the roughly 400,000 known plant species on earth, it’s estimated that about 5-10% of those are toxic for humans and/or animals—and the reality is at least a portion of this percentage are plants in your yard. While we all know about poison ivy and poison sumac, let’s take a look at some of the more common yet lesser-known toxic plants that may be found in your yard or garden.
Lily of the valley. Are there any Breaking Bad fans out there? Lily of the valley are the flowers Walt uses to poison Brock to lure Jesse out of hiding. If what I said was total gibberish, just know that lily of the valley is an exceedingly pretty plant that produces scrumptious and edible looking berries. The only problem, as you may have guessed, is that all parts of the plant are poisonous and can cause quite extreme side effects: blurry vision, nausea, irregular heartbeat, and vomiting. While lily of the valley is poisonous to pets, children are the biggest concern, as they can be drawn to what appears to be an edible-looking plant.
Water Hemlock. Perhaps the most poisonous plant in the United States, water hemlocks can be found in wet meadows, wet woodlands, and marshy areas. They can grow upwards of eight feet when fully mature and bloom with white, fluffy flowers. But don’t let its benign look fool you. Water hemlocks contain a cicutoxin, which is a toxin that targets the circulatory system. While these plants don’t often attract children or household pets, livestock have been known to occasionally chomp them down. If ingested, it can cause immediate vomiting, delirium, nausea, and convulsions, leading to almost certain death.
Daffodils. I know, you hate to see such an adorable flower on the list! While they don’t pose much of a threat to humans, daffodils can be especially harmful to pets, especially curious dogs. Eating just a small amount of a daffodil can cause vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, abdominal pain, and even convulsions. In severe cases, it can lead to heart problems and respiratory distress.
Tulips. Yet another one you hate to see on the list. Tulips contain a toxin called tulipalin, which can cause vomiting, nausea, and even convulsions. While tulips can potentially be harmful for humans if ingested, they pose the biggest risk to dogs, cats, and any other curious nibblers.
Rhododendrons. Rhododendrons are popularly used for landscaping ground cover in the United States due to their evergreen foliage and showy flowers. Unfortunately, they are toxic to both humans and animals alike, so it’s important to be aware of the risks posed by these plants. The leaves, stem, and flowers of a rhododendron contain a toxin called grayanotoxin that can result in nausea, vomiting, and even coma if ingested. If your pet or livestock ingests any part of the plant, it is important to seek out medical attention right away, as it can be very dangerous.
Of course, these are just a few of the many toxic plants often found in yards and gardens in the United States. While you can’t be expected to know all of them, it may be a good idea to do some identification of the plants in your yard to understand which ones could pose a problem. These days, mobile applications like Plant Identification or PictureThis, among many others, make it incredibly easy to identify any potential problem-makers.