By Raising Children Network
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Babies and toddlers love to explore gardens, and they treat everything in the garden as worth eating – snails, clumps of dirt, flowers and foliage, mushrooms, snail pellets. But  some harmless-looking plants in your garden could poison your child.

Gardens are generally safe and interesting places, and children often love spending time in them. But gardens aren’t always designed with children in mind.

Supervising your child is the best way to avoid danger in the garden or anywhere else, but this isn’t always possible. This means it’s very important to make the garden safe. You can do this by avoiding growing plants that are known to be poisonous. Fence off or remove any suspect plants until your child is old enough to learn not to eat strange plants (usually at around the age of three).

Click on the images in the tables below to see a larger image.

Highly poisonous plants: plants to destroy or remove

Castor oil plant (Ricinus communis): this is a common self-sown weed with toxic seeds, flowers and leaves. A few seeds can be fatal to a child.

Coral tree (Erythrina genus): the leaves, bark and seeds are poisonous. The seeds are particularly toxic for children.

Common or pink oleander (Nerium oleander) and yellow oleander (Thevetia peruviana): every part of these shrubs, including the seeds, is poisonous. Symptoms include staggering, vomiting, diarrhoea, irregular heart action, dilated pupils and coma leading to death.

Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna): the attractive round purple/black berries on this plant are highly toxic.

Rhus or wax tree (Toxicodendron succedaneum): this plant can trigger strong allergic reactions in many people, causing rashes, redness, itchiness and blisters over the course of a week or longer. Avoid contact even as a result of touching clothing or tools, or exposure to sawdust or ash. Wear protective clothing when removing the plant. White cedar tree (Melia azedarach): this is a native tree. Six or more fruits can be fatal. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, confusion, coma and seizures.
If you or someone in your care might have been exposed to a poisonous plant, immediately call the Poisons Information Centre on 131 126 for advice (24 hours a day, 7 days a week, Australia wide). If you need to go to hospital, try to take a piece of the plant with you for identification purposes, if you can.

Plants to avoid

Angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia genus): the flowers, seeds and nectar are very poisonous.

Arum lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica): all parts of the plant can cause irritation and pain in the mouth when chewed.

Belladonna lily, naked lady (Amaryllis belladonna): the sap and bulb are especially toxic to children.

Cacti and other succulents (fleshy plants): children can cut themselves or injure their eyes on the spikes.

Chillies: if your child pops a chilli in her mouth or touches one then rubs her eyes, it could be quite unpleasant or even painful. Daphne: all parts of this popular ornamental shrub are poisonous, especially the attractive berries.
Dumb cane (Dieffenbachia genus): eating this plant can irritate the mouth and cause swelling, although it won’t do any permanent damage.

Euphorbia genus: The sap from these common plants can cause severe pain and injury to the eye. Also known as spurge and milkweed, this genus includes Poinsettia, a popular Christmas plant.

Hemlock (poison parsley) and water hemlock (cowbane): these are commonly found toxic plants.

Lantana: all parts of this flowering shrub, especially the green berries, can cause stomach pains, jaundice and muscular weakness.
Mushrooms and toadstools: although most of the toxic species – such as death caps and the red and white fly agaric – are found in forests and parklands rather than backyards, there are many poisonous species. It’s worth clearing all mushrooms or toadstools from your yard until your child is old enough to know not to touch them.  
The plants listed here are some of the most common and most dangerous. To find out more about these and other dangerous plants, visit the Queensland Poisons Information Centre site.

Plants to treat with caution

Bulbs that can be poisonous: these include agapanthus, autumn crocus, clivia, daffodil, hippeastrum, hyacinth, lily of the valley, tulips and some iris. 

Cycads: the bright yellow and red seeds are used in bush tucker, but only after the toxins have been leached out. Fresh from the branch, they’re poisonous.

 

Grevilleas (especially ‘Robyn Gordon’ and Robusta): some grevillea species can trigger itching, redness and rashes if children have an allergic reaction on contact.

Rhubarb: all parts, especially the leaves, are poisonous (the stems are safe when cooked).

 

Sticky weed or asthma weed (Parietaria judaica): this can be associated with asthma attacks and can cause skin allergies.

 
If you’re unsure whether the plants in your garden are safe, ask your local nursery for advice. You can also get a list of poisonous plants from your nursery or local council.
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  • Last Updated 19-01-2011
  • Last Reviewed 18-05-2010