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Post new topic   Reply to topic    Irish Gardeners Forum Home -> House plants in Ireland, including cut flowers

Christmas plants toxic to children and pets, take care.

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James Kilkelly
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 6:40 pm    Post subject: Christmas plants toxic to children and pets, take care. Reply with quote

Christmas plants toxic to children and pets, take care.
by GPI

The holly and the ivy when they are both full-grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown
Oh, the rising of the sun and the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ, sweet singing in the choir

"The Holly and the Ivy", a traditional Christmas carol.

There are many plants associated with Christmas, the holly and ivy being just two. These examples of cut foliage that we use to adorn mantelpieces, tabletops, and windowsills, will brighten up many of our homes over the holidays. As well as these foliage clippings, there are potted specimens of Christmassy plants available such as Azalea, Poinsettia, Cyclamen, and Christmas cherry.

These floral decorations can really lend an air of yuletide magic to any home. Sure, keep the curtains pulled and those raindrops falling outside could just as well be snowflakes. Very Happy The bright colours and new textures these plants add to our living areas are world renowned for helping get us in the Christmas spirit.

However, It's worth keeping in mind that these seasonal additions to our house can be dangerous to pets, small children, and the unsuspecting adult. I don't want to scare you off completely but instead alert you to these plant dangers, some severe and some quite minimal. If it results in one reader not having to visit A & E when they should be celebrating, then this piece will be worth it.

(1) Holly, (2) Mistletoe, and (3) Christmas cherry., photo / picture / image.

Your main concern with holly should not be its spines, but instead its berries. Although many birds do live on them, they live on the berries flesh, with the toxic seed safely passing through them. Humans, dogs and cats digestive systems are different though, so eating as little as three berries can cause prolonged vomiting and diarrhoea.

Like holly, the berries of the mistletoe plant are poisonous, causing gastrointestinal distress and a slowed heartbeat if ingested. Although commonly hung high above a doorway, berries will fall to the floor especially upon drying out in our centrally heated homes.

According to Christmas custom, any boy and girl who meet under a hanging cluster of berried mistletoe are obliged to kiss. The man should pluck one of the white berries for each kiss, when all these berries are gone, that's your lot. Wink So, be very careful where those berries drop as you engage in a clinch, the pleasure of a kiss could result in illness for any child or pet who happens upon the fruit.

Christmas cherry (Jerusalem Cherry)
This cheery orange to red-berried plant commonly used as an attractive table centrepiece hides a dark secret. In spite of its common name, the plant is not related to the real cherries at all, and it's round fruits are extremely toxic, especially in their green and yellow states.

The plant in fact belongs to the same family, as the potato, tomato, aubergine, and deadly nightshade. While we all know that the fruits of the tomato and aubergine are harmless if eaten, the fruit of the potato plant (above ground) is poisonous, as is the aptly named deadly nightshade.

Beware sudden chills such as those caused by opening doors or prolonged dry heat, both of which will cause the Christmas cherry to drop berries early in its stay, possibly into the path of innocents.
Please be aware also that the poison is found to varying degrees right throughout the Christmas cherry plant, so you will even have trouble if your pet tackles a berryless specimen.

In a nutshell
Even non-toxic plants, if swallowed can cause choking, or stomach upset. In general, treat all Christmas holiday plants as non-food items; they should not be left within reach of children or pets. Sweep up beneath elevated specimens regularly, and if you think a child or pet has eaten berries/plant parts, contact your doctor or vet immediately.

Don't be afraid to decorate your homes with Christmas plant specimens and cuttings, just take a few precautions to ensure that you, your family, and your pets will have a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year. That's my wish for you, happy Christmas.

Any queries or comments on Christmas plants toxic to children and pets, take care, please post below. Wink

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