Gardening Poisonous Plants

Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

Touch-me-not Plants

Some plants have the ability to cause contact dermatitis (an unpleasant skin reaction). Sometimes just simply brushing against the plant will do it, but in other cases, you actually have to bruise the plant or snap off a leaf or stem before a reaction will occur, because it is contact with the sap that is harmful. Note that in some cases, dermatitis will only occur if the skin is exposed first to the sap and then to the sun. This is called photodermatitis. With these plants, there is therefore less risk of a reaction on a cloudy day. Note too that sensitivity varies greatly from one individual to another: what can send one person to the hospital (and yes, that can happen!) may have no effect on another. But since you never know if you’re sensitive or not, please wear gloves and long sleeves if you have to handle the foliowing plants.

Apocynum androsaemifolium
Apocynum androsaemifolium

Spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium)

Heracleum spp.
Heracleum spp.

Hogweeds (Heracleum spp.) – photodermatitis

Ranuculus spp.
Ranuculus spp.

Buttercups (Ranunculus spp.) – some species cause photodermatitis in sensitive individuals

Euphorbia
Euphorbia spp.

Spurges (Euphorbia spp.)

Dictamnus albus
Dictamnus albus

Gas plant (Dictamnus albus) – photodermatitis 

Conium maculatum
Conium maculatum

Poison-hemlock (Conium maculatum) – photodermatitis… but the whole plant is highly poisonous if ingested!  

Toxicodendron radicans
Toxicodendron radicans

Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans

Pastinaca sativa
Pastinaca sativa

Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) – photodermatitis  

Ruta graveolens
Ruta graveolens

Rue (Ruta graveolens) – photodermatitis

Urtica spp., Laportea spp.
Urtica spp., Laportea spp.

Nettles (Urtica spp. Laportea spp.)

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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