The holiday decorations we decorate our homes with each December are important cultural, familial, and emotional touchstones for many individuals and families. These treasures evoke memories of loved ones and are an important part of holiday traditions for many families. Many plants are also an integral part of holiday decorations and traditions.
While these plants provide festive color, unique scents and add to the joy of the holiday season, they can also be dangerous to small children and pets. Holiday plants are often placed in places around the house without thinking about the plants’ potential toxicity or the access that inquisitive young children and pets might have to the plants. Let’s look at the potential toxicity of some of our favorite holiday plants.
Mistletoe: While hanging live mistletoe (Phoradendron fluoscens) can add an extra pinch of cheek this holiday season, it should be avoided in households with pets, as it is highly toxic. Eating even small amounts of live mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset, seizures, and even death when pets ingest large amounts. Pet lovers should choose a plastic or silk version of this plant as a backdrop for their holiday smooches.
Poinsettia: Now available in an array of different colors, shades and leaf characteristics, this wonderful holiday plant is possibly the most misunderstood holiday plant in terms of toxicity. Although eating poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) leaves or stems can cause stomach upset, it won’t cause serious illness or death—contrary to what grandma might have told you! A study at Ohio State University found that a 50-pound child would need to ingest more than 500 poinsettia leaves to experience any harmful effects, so no cases of severe poisoning have ever been reported. happened
amaryllis, White paperdaffodils: These holiday-blooming bulbs make a beautiful addition to any holiday decor and are a popular gift for plant lovers, but they are highly toxic to both pets and humans. Eating any part of these plants can cause abdominal pain, convulsions, and cardiac arrhythmias. The good news is that the leaves of these plants are much less toxic than the actual bulbs.
Cyclamen: Only in recent years has the cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) become popular as a winter holiday plant with flowers available in many shades of red and pink as well as white. This plant contains dangerous saponins that can cause intestinal symptoms if eaten. The tuber or root of cyclamen is the most poisonous part of the plant.
Holly Berries: Sprigs of the bright holly plant (Ilex opaca) with its festive red berries are a popular and old holiday decoration, but the berries are highly toxic when eaten by humans or pets, causing vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and Drowsiness happens, even if it’s just a berry or two. are swallowed. Holly leaves can also cause pain if swallowed due to sharp edges. After the holly berries dry, they fall from the branches, sometimes within easy reach of curious pets and children. Extreme care should be taken when displaying live holly branches with berries when pets or children are present in the home.
Christmas cactus: Indoor Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) provides a vibrant pop of color for the holidays and beyond but has been known to cause ataxia (abnormal uncoordinated movements) and mild gastrointestinal distress when eaten by cats.
Living Christmas Tree: Most conifer species used as Christmas trees, including pine, spruce and fir, are not toxic to children or pets, but the sharp needles of these plants can cause irritation and injury to the mouth or throat. are if drunk.
Plant lovers with pets or small children can still enjoy the colors, textures and scents of these holiday plants if they’re out of reach. If you suspect a child has consumed a poisonous plant, contact the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital at 1-800-222-1222. Pet owners who suspect their pet has become ill from eating poisonous plants should contact their veterinarian or the ASPCA’s 24-hour emergency pet poisoning hotline at 1-888-426-4435.
Mike Hogan is an Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Associate Professor with Ohio State University Extension.