Poisonous plants

What does it look like?

Yew

Chrysanthemums

Deadly nightshade

Hemlock Water Dropwort

Snowdrops

Mistletoe

Daffodil bulbs

Berries

Why is it dangerous?

Around 75% of the plants in an average English garden or the countryside are toxic to some extent. Most of them are only mildly toxic and can cause rashes or tummy aches which are not serious. However, a few plants can be very dangerous. Their leaves, berries, flowers, fruit, sap or bulbs can poison you, either by making you ill after eating them (as is the case with daffodil bulbs) or giving you a skin rash after touching them.

Some plants, which will cause stomach aches for humans, can kill dogs, cats or other animals, so do make sure you play safe with your pets.

The most risky plants and trees include:

  1. Yew
    This beautiful tree produces red berries which may look rather like redcurrants, but are highly poisonous. Teach your children NEVER to pick and eat any berries in the countryside.
  2. Chrysanthemums
    Although generally found in gardens, many people do not realise that chrysanthemums can be toxic, as they are sometimes used to make herbal tea. It is important to know which part of the plant to use and which varieties are safe. NEVER pick chrysanthemums for herbal tea, unless you are an expert.
  3. Hemlock Water Dropwort
    In Ancient Greece, this plant was used to prepare a lethal drink to carry out the death sentence and was famously used to kill Greek philosopher Socrates after he was condemned.
  4. Deadly nightshade
    Although from the same plant family as tomatoes, potatoes and bell peppers, this particular strain of nightshade which grows wild in Britain is, as the name says, deadly. A number of nightshade varieties produce lethal berries and toxic leaves and so  Europeans were extremely sceptical about eating tomatoes when they  first came acoess them, convinced they too would cause death.
  5. Snowdrops
    These beautiful winter flowers, often found in forests and green verges, are extremely poisonous.
  6. Mistletoe
    This epiphyte attaches itself to trees without actually feeding off them parasitically. A symbol of peace and friendship among the ancient Celts – the forerunner of the white flag – the plant is used for decoration and not for eating as its berries are poisonous.
  7. Daffodils
    Daffodil leaves and flowers are not poisonous but their bulbs, which resemble onions, are deadly.

How can I avoid it?

What to do: Remind children not to eat anything from the garden, unless you’ve said it’s OK.

When picking and eating wild mushrooms and berries, such as blackberries and elderberries, be absolutely sure that they are safe.

What to do if I or my child accidentally eats it?

If anyone shows symptoms such as tummy ache, vomiting, rashes or diarrhoea after playing outside, take them to an A&E department immediately with a sample of what they’ve eaten.

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