Common Toxic Plants

10 Jun

There are a number of common, lovely garden plants that are, in reality, very dangerous.

If you ever intend to gather herbs in the wild, a friend’s garden, or even to grow your own garden, it is imperative that you know about common toxic plants.

I will be sharing some of the most common and most toxic plants in this post, but this list is by no means complete.  A good resource for plant toxicity is: Cornell University Guide to Toxic Plants.

As a dog person, I also feel the need to point out that animals can be harmed by some plants that don’t affect us.  So if you have a pet and want to start gardening, be sure to check safety information for them, too!

Toxic Plants

Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea

This common garden beauty can be fatal, even in small amounts.  All parts of the plant contain cardiac altering chemicals.  In fact, the primary toxin is used, in its refined form, in the heart medicine Lanoxin.  There are reportedly cases of people confusing young Foxglove leaves for the beneficial leaves of the Comfrey plant.  If you ever doubt a plant’s identity, either let it flower or just leave it be.

Lily of the Valley, Convallaria majalis  

Like Foxglove, all parts of this plant are toxic and can be fatal in small amounts.  The toxin in this plant also affects the heart.

Hyacinth, Daffodil, and other Narcissus

The bulbs of the Narcissus family are the most toxic part of the plant, but the leaves are also mildly toxic.  The bulbs, which apparently resemble onions (though I haven’t seen them), can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and convulsions.  They toxin may not kill you, but you might wish it had.

Some other common toxic plants are:  rhubarb (leaves, can be fatal), yew (all parts are very toxic, can cause sudden symptom-less death), bleeding heart (all parts), monkshood (roots), nightshade (all parts can be fatal).

  • Now that the serious, getting started sort of business is out of the way, we can move on to the fun stuff!  Check in soon for fun recipes and tips for using herbs!
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    Getting Started

    6 Jun

    So, you want to start using herbs for cooking, medicine, or simply enhancing the beauty of your garden.  There are a few things you should to do right away to make sure all of your experiences with herbs are safe and successful.

    Educate yourself.  I can’t stress this enough.  The more knowledge you have, the safer you will be.  This is especially important if you ever wish to gather herbs in the wild or start your own garden.  Look-alike plants and common toxic garden plants are real dangers that any herbalist should be aware of.

    Start simple. Try growing a pre-started mint or thyme plant on a window sill.  Buy high-quality dried herbs at a local market.  Starting with an easy to identify, multi-purpose herb is a great way to introduce yourself to the world of herbs!

    Follow a guide. With the increased interest in green living of late, there are many great books available on natural healing and beauty remedies that use many different herbs.  Once you begin to learn the properties of various herbs, you can start tweaking recipes to your own tastes!

    A couple titles to get you started:  Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs, Steven Foster and James A. Duke.  This guide has a wealth of information on identification, uses, and toxicity.

    Links to

    Fun, simple natural recipe book:  1001 Natural Remedies, Laurel Vukovic

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    Check in next week for some common toxic garden plants and look-alikes!


    12 May

    Thanks for visiting.

    Tune in later this week for my first post:  a beginner’s guide to using herbs in everyday life.

    I’ll be sharing tips on:

    • Field guides and natural healing/beauty books
    • Safe herb use
    • Growing your own plants

    I hope you’ll be back soon!