Midwesterners wait all year for summer—and now it’s in full swing! Before you embrace what nature has to offer, check out our list of what’s harmless and what should only be admired from afar!
If someone has swallowed any of following four plants, call IPC right away:
Larkspur image credit: Chicago Botanic Garden
Delphinium, contains the toxin aconite, similar to the plant Monkshood, which blooms in the fall. Aconite as a method of poison is well represented throughout history, Greek mythology, in literature and even popular culture. Every part of this pretty plant is toxic, especially the roots and seeds. Aconite interferes with the sodium channels on muscles and nerves, which can cause adverse neurological and cardiac effects. Symptoms start with nausea and vomiting, and if enough of the plant is swallowed can progress to muscle weakness/paralysis and abnormal heart rhythms.
Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
Foxglove image credit: Chicago Botanic Garden
Foxglove is another famous toxic plant. It contains digitalis, which is a cardiac glycoside. We first introduced cardiac glycosides with Lily of the Valley in our Spring plant blog post last year. In fact, the pharmaceutical Digoxin is derived from foxglove. Swallowing enough Foxglove can lead to slow heart rate and confusion.
Cotoneaster image credit: Chicago Botanic Garden
Cotoneaster’s seeds and berries contain cyanogenic glycosides. When eaten, the body breaks the glycoside down into cyanide. Luckily the concentration of this toxin is quite low, so a large amount is needed to cause cyanide toxicity.
Though not harmful in small quantities, you should still exercise caution with this group:
Allium (Wild Onion/Wild Garlic)
Allium (wild onion/wild garlic) image credit: Chicago Botanic Garden
Who knew that a relative to the odiferous savory vegetables onion and garlic could have such pretty flowers? Pretty or not, eating large amounts of the plant can cause stomach upset.
Tomato: solanum lycopersicum, Potato: solanum tuberosum, Eggplant: solanum melongena
Tomato image credit: Chicago Botanic Garden
The fruit of these plants are delicious when ripe, but you may regret snacking on them before they are ready. The leaves and unripe fruit contain solanine. Solanine can cause throat irritation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, drowsiness if enough is swallowed.
Pokeweed (Phytolacca Americana)
Pokeweed image credit: Chicago Botanic Garden
Pokeberries can start to look pretty tasty come July or August but looks are deceiving. While a small taste of this plant or berries won’t cause much of a problem, too much can cause significant GI symptoms: severe nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
Black-eyed Susan image credit: Chicago Botanic Garden
These are a common and cheery addition to many gardens. Black-eyed Susans are an Illinois native plant and are often seen growing wild in fields and prairies. This plant can irritate the skin upon contact.
As you can see, some summer plants can be really toxic, but get as close to these as you want:
Daylilies image credit: Chicago Botanic Garden
Daylilies—not technically in the lily family—generally bloom and die in about one day, hence their name.
Lungwort image credit: Chicago Botanic Garden
These perennial flowers are a favorite of bees.
Coneflower image credit: Chicago Botanic Garden
In the summertime, butterflies love this prairie plant. Goldfinches to eat the plant’s tiny seeds in late summer to early fall.
Geraniums (Pelargonium spp)
Geranium image credit: growjoy.com
Both the annual and perennial varieties are familiar to many gardeners—and for good reason: they are nontoxic and beautiful.
Petunia image credit: Chicago Botanic Garden
Some colors of these trumpet shaped flowers even attract hummingbirds.
Don’t hesitate to contact the IPC 24/7/365 helpline at 1-800-222-1222 if you think you or someone else has been exposed to a plant or any potentially harmful substance. For more information on plant toxicity, check out IPC’s plant list, poisonous plant poster, ASPCA’s toxic plants in animals plant list, and our blog posts for Spring toxic plants, Fall toxic plants, and Winter holiday toxic plants. For a free IPC Safety Packet containing a sticker, magnet and first aid poisoning information, click here.
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