Family safety guide to wildlife poisons

Keep your children safe by identifying plants that could be dangerous

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Watch out for Lily-of-the-valley, too!

How common is poisoning by plants?

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You’ll be pleased to know that serious poisoning by plants is not common in the UK. There are some garden plants that present a hazard, but there’s no need to panic as the risk of severe poisoning, skin reaction or allergy is generally low.

George Plumptre, CEO of the National Gardens Scheme charity (ngs.org.uk) tells MadeForMums, “I don’t want to give the impression that all contact with plants should be avoided.”

“But, like many things, it’s better to be cautious,” he adds.

How do I recognise which plants are hazardous?

There’s no need to worry if you don’t know your dandelion from your daffodil, there are lots of ways to check which plants are which.

“Most plant reference books will indicate if the plant presents a danger or not,” says George. “If you are unsure about a plant, it’s best to avoid contact with it”.

George says the following garden and houseplants are the most common to watch out for (some might surprise you!):

  • Horse chestnut
  • Chilli peppers
  • Bluebell
  • Lily-of-the-valley
  • Foxglove
  • Euphorbias, also know as spurges (including poinsettia)
  • Hyacinth
  • Morning glory
  • Iris
  • Ivy
  • Daffodil
  • Yew
  • Tulip
  • Wisteria

Find out more about these plants and see what they look like.

What can I do to help my kids stay safe around plants?

Keeping your children safe around plants is easy. George says there’s no need to get too worried, just use your common sense and keep an eye on them. 

“A common sense approach is best, supervise young children and point out the dangers to them,” says George.

 “Younger children should be encouraged to safely explore their surroundings and helped to understand the dangers that some plants can present,” says George. 

Top tips

George recommends two simple ways to keep your kids safe:

  • Teach children not to play with, or eat anything that’s growing in the garden
  • If you buy new plants for the garden, make sure you check the labels for toxicity warnings so you don’t plant more hazardous plants

Are these hazardous plants found anywhere else?

Remember that hazardous plants aren’t just found in the garden. Pesky plants can be found at the park, in the woods, and in other gardens (basically anywhere green!). So, make sure you remember the safety tips and keep an eye on your kids.

What do I do if I think my child is unwell after contact with plants?

It’s easy to panic if you think your child might have come into contact with a hazardous plant, but it’s best to stay calm and seek some advice.

“If your child does complain of feeling unwell or develops a rash having been in contact with plants, seek medical advice at an A&E department and let them know if you suspect a plant is to blame,” George says.

“If you can, take a sample of the plant with you,” he says. “Don’t try and make your child be sick.”

Now you’ve mastered those pesky plants, your little adventurers can stay safe and have lots of fun in the great outdoors.  

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The National Gardens Scheme raises money for charity each year by opening mainly private gardens to the public. Many allow under 16s in for free. Visit ngs.org.uk for more details.

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