In the Garden:
Inland Northwest, High Desert
Like their philodendron relatives, eating any part of pothos (Epipremnum aureum) will cause an upset stomach at least.
Perilous Gift Plants
My mother used to say, "Never go empty handed when visiting." At this season of visiting friends and family, we often take a small, blooming plant as a gift. Not all plants are good gifts, however, especially if your friends and family have small children or pets.
Philodendrons are popular houseplants because they're easy to grow, but the leaves contain calcium oxalate crystals and other toxins that cause intense burning, swelling, and paralysis of mouth tissues when eaten. The intense burning is caused partly by the sharp crystals, partly by the chemical irritation. Cats have been fatally poisoned by eating these plants. Symptoms in cats include debilitation, listlessness, and loss of kidney function but no apparent pain. If you're growing a philodendron indoors, keep it as a hanging plant, out of reach of small kids and pets. The same is true for other plants in the Arum family such as pothos, caladium, dumbcane, and spathe flower.
Care with Holly
Historically, holly was used to protect homes and people against witches, dogs, and wild beasts. Every house, church, and street corner was adorned with holly. But this beautiful evergreen doesn't come without faults. Its red berries cause stomach upset and can be fatal to dogs and cats. If small children eat a lot of the berries, they can become sick with vomiting, diarrhea, and stupor.
More Than a Kiss
Mistletoe is great for prompting kisses beneath a sprig held high and safely out of reach. That's because this plant can cause upset stomach in humans and heart collapse in pets. Mistletoe berries can give a person acute stomach and intestinal irritation with diarrhea and slow pulse. Recently, a drug derived from mistletoe has been found to lower blood pressure. But don't try this at home!
In Case of Emergency
Look in your phone book for the number of your local Poison Control Center. Post the phone number where you can see it easily in an emergency. Better yet, avoid problems by keeping poisonous plants and other materials out of the reach of curious hands and paws.
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