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There’s little room in nature for form without function. Many of the plants you choose for decorative reasons will also have a functional purpose. Some provide food, some will drive way insects. Some, however, are deadly, and will be poisonous to you, your loved ones, or even your pets. Here is our first list of the killer flowers you are likely to have in your garden.
Rhododendron – Containing a poison called grayanotoxin, all parts of the rhododendron plant can be poisonous if ingested by a human or animal, but the leaves are the most toxic. Poisoning from ingesting rhododendron plants will present as salivating, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and tremors. Disturbances in cardiac rate and rhythm may occur, and if enough of the plat was consumed, convulsions may occur, followed by coma and death. Large animals may recover without treatment. The level of deadliness is moderate – 100 grams of leaves will seriously poison a small child, and horses in particular are effected by the plant.
Mountain Laurel – State flowers seem to be high on the list of killers – the mountain laurel is claimed by Connecticut and Pennsylvania, while members of the rhododendron family are claimed by West Virginia and Washington State. Like the rhododendron, all parts of the mountain laurel are poisonous, and the plant contains grayanotoxin. The mountain laurel also contains andromedotoxins, which adds cardiac distress, difficulty breathing, incoordination and paralysis to the list of symptoms.
Lily-of-the-Valley – While many lilies are toxic to an extent, this killer is one of the most popular, thanks to its sweet smell and habit of growing with little care needed. It is a popular groundcover and is fairly hardy. It contains almost 40 cardiac glycosides, along with saponins. Poisoning is shown through a variety of symptoms, including blurry vision, vomiting and nausea, disorientation, drowsiness, headaches, red skin rashes, and more. The result can be sudden changes in your cardiac rhythm, and possibly death if enough is ingested and it goes untreated.
Hydrangea – These plants are loved for the myriad of colors they can bloom in, thanks to changes in the level of soil acidity. It’s not uncommon to see a plant change color from year to year, or have many different colors in one area simply due to small changes. However, the hydrangea is also very toxic. Every part of the plant, including the blooms, contains levels of cyanogenic glycosides – what many people know as cyanide. Eating or smoking the plant – oddly enough, it is sometimes recreationally used as an intoxicant – can cause dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath, elevated pulse, and possibly death
Foxglove – While this is one of the more well-known poisonous plants, it’s toxicity is no worse than the lesser-known plants. The tall purple, pink and white flowers growing in dramatic towers lend height to a garden. However, digitalis can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, delerium, headache, and more. This can result in heart disturbances, although foxglove poisoning is generally only deadly to children under the age of six, and animals. That being said, it is relatively easy for a child to poison themselves with this plant, as all parts are toxic, and the toxin can be ingested simply by sucking on a leaf they do not need to swallow a part of the plant.
These are only five of the decorative flowers you may be considering for your garden that can be toxic. In part two, we will go into five more common, deadly garden plants. Please note that we aren’t telling you to avoid them – just use care if you plan on using them.