Before we answer the question, let's start by saying that the number of common houseplants considered toxic might actually surprise you. And just like you wouldn't ingest your other household decorations, it's pretty common sense not to nibble on your houseplants.
Now, we get it—children and pets are a little harder to reason with when it comes to doing dangerous things. While they'll generally live and learn, in most cases, you definitely wouldn't want to keep anything potentially harmful within their reach. Still, there are myriad ways to keep houseplants out of the way, such as placing them on a high shelf or a hanging basket—and let's face it, this might be a good idea even if the plants aren't toxic!
The truth is, poinsettias are NOT poisonous. While they may cause irritation and are by no means edible, ingesting them does not have serious consequences.
The Myth of Poisonous Poinsettias
For years, people have believed that these vibrant plants were dangerously toxic and have repeated the warning that "just one leaf can kill a child." But if no one has ever hurt themselves from ingesting the plant, then where did this unfounded fear come from?
One of the more obvious reasons is the word association between "poinsettia" and "poison"—the similarity between the two words might lead people to assume they're connected. However, the plants are actually named after Joel Roberts Poinsett, who introduced them to the United States after being appointed the first U.S. Minister to Mexico. Poinsettias are also commonly grouped with other holiday plants like holly and mistletoe. These seasonal plants are known to be toxic, leaving our favorite Christmas centerpieces guilty by association.
The most accepted source of the myth is from a report from a hundred years ago that a child passed away after eating one of the plant's leaves. This was nothing more than an assumption based on the fact that the child was found near a wild poinsettia plant. Nevertheless, the rumor quickly spread throughout the scientific community, leading doctors to support these claims for many, many years.
Finally, researchers at Ohio State University discovered the truth in 1971 during a study on the plant's toxicity. When trying to pinpoint what a poisonous dose might be, they ended up reaching extraordinary high doses before concluding that the plant isn't actually toxic at all.
Adverse Effects of Poinsettia Plants
Let's be clear—just because something isn't poisonous, does not make it edible. Though poinsettia leaves are harmless, they aren't something you want to grow in your veggie garden or add to your salads. They still have a very low level of toxicity that can cause some irritation when they're touched or ingested. Although these symptoms are pretty self-limiting and rarely require medical attention, you should still take steps to keep them out of little bellies.
If your cat or dog ate poinsettia, here are some of the symptoms to watch for before calling the vet:
- Nausea & Vomiting
- Licking lips
- Skin irritation
- Eye irritation
Our advice is to go ahead and decorate your home for the holidays with poinsettias, knowing they're just as safe to have around your loved ones as most other houseplants! If you have particularly curious pets and are more comfortable keeping your plants out of their reach, they'll be just as happy on a high shelf or in hanging planter by the window. Either way, don't hesitate to make Carolina Seasons your first stop for poinsettias in Greenville.