Poisonous plants grow in every garden in South Africa. They form an important part of our indigenous flora, and therefore it is not practical to eradicate them all. It is more important to get to know more about them.
Systemic plant poisoning is rare due to the fact that small amounts are usually ingested. Large amounts of these plants need to be consumed before any symptoms will develop.
Common plants found in and around the house, and that children often put in their mouths, include the following:
- The Dumbcane (Dieffenbachia species), Elephant’s ear, Arum lily and Delicious monster. They all contain calcium oxalate crystals. Chewing on parts of these plants may produce an immediate intense pain of the mouth, tongue and lips. Management includes clearing the mouth of plant parts and administration of cool liquids or crushed ice to sooth the burning sensation.
- Ingestion of the ripe Syringa tree berries is common in children, but rarely causes any form of poisoning because the ripe berry has a very hard kernel which contains the poisonous substance. To break the kernel you will need to use a hammer. It usually passes through the gastro-intestinal tract intact. Nausea and diarrhoea could possibly develop.
- The Oleander plant (Nerium oleander) is known to be poisonous, but large amounts (at least 15 leaves) have to be ingested before systemic poisoning will occur.
- Plant dermatitis is mainly caused by the Euphorbia plant species, commonly known as Spurge. It contains a milky sap that is responsible for the skin reaction. Eye contact can cause blindness therefore the eyes should be washed with copious amounts of water.
- The Stinging nettle will cause red, itchy hives. It is not dangerous and these reactions usually resolve within a few days.
- The most serious toxic effects encountered with plants are the intentional ingestion’s by teenagers of the Thorn apple seeds and Moon flowers. They usually ingest this for the hallucinogenic effects.
Common poisonous plants in South Africa, (click on links below to see images, descriptions and locations of where the plants grow commonly):
- Melia azedarach (Syringa Tree)
- Euphorbia (Spurge)
- Monstera Deliciosa (Delicious Monster)
- Dieffenbachia (Dumbcane)
- Colocasia Esculenta (Elephant’s Ear Plant)
- Zantedeschia (Arum Lily)
- Urtica dioica (Stinging Nettle)
- Codiaeum variegatum
- Erythrina (Lucky bean)
- Ricinus (Castor oil plant)
- Chincherinchee (Wonder Flower)
- Digitalis (Foxglove)
- Stinkblaar (Jimson weed)
- Larkspur (Delphinium)
- Nerium oleander (Oleander)
- Cascabela thevetia (Yellow Oleander)
- Brugmansia (Also known as Angel Trumpets or Moon Flower)
- Clivia miniata (Clivia)
- Fungi (don’t handle any fungi, especially mushroom and toadstools, unless you have knowledge about fungi.)
- Learn to identify poisonous plants. Go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_poisonous_plants
Get rid of toxic houseplants such as philodendron or move them out of reach. Learn more about which plants (both indoor & outdoor) are hazardous & which can by lethal when ingested.
Article Credits: C.J. Bothaa | M.-L. Penrithb,c
- Department of Paraclinical Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Private Bag X04, Onderstepoort 0110, South Africa
- TADScientific, 40 Thomson Street, Colbyn 0083, South Africa
- Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Private Bag X04, Onderstepoort 0110, South Africa
Always have the emergency number of your closest poison control center available.
- Poison Information Centers in South Africa
- Poison Control Helpline – 0861 555 777
- Red Cross Children’s Hospital (021) 689-5227
- Tygerberg Hospital: (021) 931 6129