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The fact that plants are good for us is fully acknowledged and embraced by most. But some plants are better than others. Some plants are harmful, and it's essential to know which are poisonous for children, adults and pets. It's important to be wise without being paranoid, because the benefits of plants certainly outweigh the dangers.
We now know that humans have an innate tendency to make connections with nature and this is beneficial to health and wellbeing. It’s known as the biophilia hypothesis and it makes perfect sense.
But will any old plant do the job?
It’s important to choose non-toxic plants if there’s any danger of nibbling! Pets and kids are continually exploring the world around them and anything from the natural world has a strong appeal. Whether it’s at home or in the workplace, the safety aspect of plants shouldn’t be ignored.
if your work premises is open to the public – or if small children or puppies form the core of the business, place your plants with care.
Many plants are really good for us and designed to be eaten. Others will do no harm if they are ingested. Some will cause upset stomachs and could damage organs if enough is eaten. A few plants are extremely poisonous and can cause death. They include Aconitum or Monkshood, pictured below.
There’s no doubt that many plants are extremely good for us. We are designed to eat produce including fruit, vegetables and herbs. Some should be cooked and others can be eaten raw. Raw potatoes should never be eaten as they contain potentially toxic compounds called glycoalkaloids which greatly upset the digestive system. Brussels sprouts can also cause gas in the intestines and shouldn’t be eaten raw.
When it comes to indoor plants, there are many beauties that are harmless if accidentally consumed by people or pets. They include the glorious Areca palm, which also happens to be a highly efficient air-filtering plant too. The Canary Island date palm, Phoenix canariensis is believed to be non toxic too.
Or if you want something a little smaller, look at the ponytail palm, Nolina maya which is also known as Beaucarnea recurvata. It has a trunk like an elephant’s foot as this is where it stores water – a bit like a miniature version of the iconic Baobab tree of Africa and Australia.
Then there is an array of wonderful succulents including the rosette forming Echeverias that are safe around pets and children. If you want something that gives you flowers as well as foliage, the glorious Christmas cactus, Schlumbergera will not disappoint. These are not believed to be poisonous and could therefore make an ideal gift for a child to wrap and give to granny!
Hanging plants including the good old spider plants, Chlorophytum – in all its various forms – are also considered to be safe, and they are really easy to look after too. It produces offsets regularly and makes an ideal subject for propagation. Little fingers will come to no harm during the potting up of spider plant babies.
Don't let your dog eat this food
Dogs shouldn't eat plants unless you know they are safe. But they also can’t consume some of the seemingly healthy food that is fine for humans. Here’s a selection of food that can easily harm your pet:
- Grapes and raisins: these can cause severe renal failure and symptoms include upset stomach, vomiting and general poorliness. The kidney problems can lead to a cease in urine production. Dog can suffer from seizures and lethargy.
- Avoid all seeds, known as ‘stones’ or ‘pits’ within fruit such as cherries, apricots, peaches and plums. They contain a compound called amygdalin which breaks down into toxic cyanide. This is a poison that can lead to cell death and this generally starts in the brain, then moves to the heart.
- Avocado stones are also a danger. Not toxic, in themselves, but some dogs try to play with these and end up swallowing the slippery seed. This can easily lead to a blockage of the intestines.
- Beware of plants from the Solanaceae family which includes the commonly called ‘deadly nightshade’. Many of them contain a compound called solanine that can lead to respiratory problems, hyperthermia, drowsiness and more. The compound is usually only found in the stem and leaves of the plant rather than fruits or vegetables such as potato. A dog wouldn’t normally want to eat the plants, but perhaps a puppy might be tempted.
- Anything from the onion family including garlic, chives and leeks is poisonous to dogs. The toxic effects include the destruction of red blood cells which can cause anaemia and maybe even death.
- Mushrooms are a fungus and many of them are poisonous to dogs because they contain an array of toxic compounds. If you see your dog consuming an unknown mushroom in a wood, perhaps a visit to the vet would be in order.
- Most people realise that chocolate is poisonous for dogs. It contains theobromine which can cause cardiac arrest and seizures. Humans are able to break this down more effectively than dogs.
- Caffeine can cause seriously toxic effects in dogs, if consumed in significant amounts.
- Alcohol has been responsible for the death of many dogs. Some people think that allowing their dog to lap at a glass of beer is amusing, but some are highly affected within the central nervous system.
- Xylitol, the sugar alternative, causes increased levels of insulin in dogs. It can easily lead to severe hypoglycaemia and the lack of blood sugar can cause the brain to shut down. It can also affect the liver. Just a tiny amount can have a devastating effect.