Surprisingly, even a common plant like a philodendron can be poisonous. According to medical specialists, the leaves, stems, flowers, roots, and other parts of more than seven hundred different kinds of plants that grow in the United States contain toxic substances that can prove deadly if ingested.
The plants pose a particular danger to our grandchildren, who have a tendency to put objects in their mouth. In fact, after medicines, plants are the leading cause of poisoning among children under five years old. Pets may also be susceptible.
Poisonous plants do not have to grow wild or be exotic; many are familiar favorites found in homes and gardens or bought to add festive flair to our homes for the holidays. Among them: philodendron, English Ivey, dieffenbachia, sweet pea, morning glory, azalea, hyacinth, daffodil, iris, hydrangea, rhododendron and mistletoe.
When eaten poisonous plants can produce ill effects -- from swelling of the tongue and lips, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea -- to cramps, convulsion and even heartbeat irregularities. The poisons are sometimes so potent that even a tiny taste is deadly. For example, a single leaf of the oleander plant contains enough of a chemical active on heart tissue to kill an adult. Using a branch of the plant as a barbecue stick can deposit enough of the substance on meat to kill a child. Forget spearing marshmallows and melting them over the grill.
Doctors offer us several suggestions to safeguard our grandchildren, pets and ourselves: