Wednesday, May 4, 2016


The landscape is finally coming alive—casting a spring green haze along the
road sides with red accents of flowering Swamp Maples. The emerging growing season reminds me that children will soon come in close contact with the natural world, often in their own yards, parks or at school.  It is wise to be aware of toxic plants that are found in many planted landscapes. When I am designing landscapes for children there are toxic plants that I do not use. Some that are very common in our yards are yews, rhododendrons, narcissus  and lily of the valley.
Lily of the Valley

If you have these plants in your yard don’t be alarmed…just be aware. When I was growing up my mother always told us never to touch or eat the berries on the yews. She was aware and made us aware. I did have a scare many years ago when my 3 year old daughter handed my 9 month old son who was sitting in the strollera bunch of lily of the valley that she had picked while we were on a walk. He proceeded to put it into his mouth! Since he had no teeth I was pretty sure he had not ingested anything but I did call the poison center. I was aware that it was a poisonous plant. He is now a healthy 29 year old father of a 9 month old! 

You can download a free Poisonous Plants Brochure at:
The Northern New England Poison Center or you can get an extensive list (including house plants) from the Illinois Poison Center.

The list identifies each plant with a
“Plant Toxicity Rating Scale” from 0 to 3:

0 – These plants are nontoxic. Remember, even nontoxic leaves and berries can pose choking hazards to small children.
1 – Symptoms may occur which are mild and not life threatening, such as minor nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or skin rashes.
2 – Symptoms may occur which are moderate (hallucination, severe stomach irritation, profuse diarrhea/dehydration)
3 – Symptoms may occur which are severe and life threatening (irregular heartbeat, breathing distress, seizure, shock, paralysis or coma)

This information is helpful when assessing risks and level of concern. We — as parents, teachers and care givers, are responsible for teaching our children to be respectful not fearful of the natural world. We will do a better job if we are also more aware and informed. If you have young children, it is a good idea to have the number of your poison center on hand...just in case.

So...what about dirt?

See what the Illinois Poison Center has to say about that in there blog post:

My Child Ate…Nature!