Poisonous Garden Plants Common to Georgia Landscapes

In 1997 when my wife and I were expecting our first child we visited the first Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA). We took a tour of the facility during their open house. We were given a few handouts to take home and one immediately caught my eye. Not having had children before we were a sponge for information relating to rearing our child and the eye catching piece was a list of plants poisonous to children.

We quickly learned that the number one way that children under one year of age get poisoned is by eating plants. Wow!  Who would have known, we thought. Upon further investigation (reading the CHOA list) we realized that the majority of yards in the Atlanta area have plants which ingested by children small enough could pose a problem.

On the list were hollies, azaleas, and many more of the most common plants that have been used in our southern gardens for literally centuries. According to Wikipedia children under 6 account for 85% of all poison control center calls although it is typically due to more common household products such as cleaners and cosmetics. Therein lies the danger; most of us wouldn’t suspect that eating plants would be unsafe because we were all told to “eat your veggies” growing up and knowing that bread comes from wheat and fruit grows on trees, who would know?

Here are 10 plants that will cause nausea at the minimum:

Daffodils Georgia Daffodils These winter blooming bulbs are planted by the millions every year in America and bloom January to March depending on when you plant them.
Rhododendrons Georgia Rhododendrons The large showy blooms of this shrub make it a favorite for shade gardens in the south. Azaleas are cousins to this plant. Augusta National Golf Course and Callaway Gardens are known for their Azalea collections.
Wisteria Georgia Wisteria This invasive vine blooms purple in the spring and is seen growing in massive sprays overtaking trees much like Kudzu does. Another reason to avoid this enticing nemesis.
Foxglove Georgia Foxglove The base Latin name of this perennial plant is Digitalis. This plant is a common commercial source for the heart drug digitalis. Other common names are Fairy Bells, Throatwort and Rabbitflower.
Hydrangea Georgia Hydrangea A southern favorite for their predominately blue but sometimes white, pink and even purple blooms. This immensely popular shrub will sport their round or cone shaped blooms in summer and fall depending on the variety.
Lily of the Valley Georgia Lily Of The Valley This low growing foliage perennial with tiny white blooms in the summer loves moist shade but any part of the plant will cause you problems if you eat it. Also called Mayflowers, it has been a favorite “pass along plant” in the south for many years as it is easy to transplant.
Fig Georgia Ficus While this tree is typically only grown outdoors in south Florida you might have a Florida room in your home and not know that it is poisonous. Also known as Ficus, Benjamin Tree or Rubber Tree it has a milky sap that comes out if you cut it open that will cause skin inflammation.
Chrysanthemums Georgia Chrysanthemums A very popular fall blooming perennial symbolic with fall harvest displays. Some gardeners plant them to keep rabbits away as they instinctively know not to eat them.
Holly Yaupon Hollies Georgia Holly Yaupon Hollies are small trees with small red berries and Dwarf Yaupon Hollies are very dwarf evergreen shrubs very common to southern landscapes. What most people don’t know is that Native American Indians used to ingest this plant to “cleanse the spirits” and thus the Latin name Ilex vomitoria!
Oleander Georgia Oleander With colorful pastel-hued blooms this tall shrub is very popular in Florida and other coastal lower south areas where it is warm and the blooms are irresistible.

As parents to be we realized that even water can be harmful if ingested into our lungs but at the same time our bodies consist of 2/3 water, plus we’d perish without it. Plants are necessary to our health as many medicines are derived from them. Also fruits and vegetables are common staples in our diets. While plants are important to our survival, there are plenty of plants that can seriously harm us. The moral of the story is to be very careful with your children around common garden plants, as there is a very real danger to them.

If you have any questions about your garden plants, or are interested in changing your landscaping – at Classic Landscapes we have the experience, knowledge and crew to create your dream landscape. Contact us today!

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