Poisonous Plants in the Garden

More than 700 plant species in North America cause death or illness. According to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, these toxic plants are often found in flower and vegetable gardens. A common garden plant may have poison in its seeds, leaves, fruit or roots. The University suggests labeling garden plants and teaching children to not pick or eat garden plants without supervision. Post your local poison control telephone number near the phone.


Rhododendrons are flowering landscape shrubs. These mass-flowering shrubs commonly appear in borders and foundation plantings. The rhododendron family includes azaleas and laurels. Eating any part of these plants may cause vomiting, difficulty breathing, depression, coma or death.


Oleanders are evergreen flowering shrubs. These shrubs meet low-water, easy-care landscape needs. The University of Florida reports that oleander leaves and branches are highly toxic to livestock and people. The plant is poison at any time of year. Fatalities reportedly include children who ate the flowers and people who used the branches to cook hot dogs.


Daffodils are spring-blooming flowers that grow from underground bulbs. The flowers make excellent cut flowers, but the bulbs are poison. Ingesting these bulbs may cause diarrhea, vomiting and death. Other toxic bulbs include hyacinth, crocus, snowdrop and narcissus.


Tomato and potato plants are edible food crops. Though mature tomatoes and potatoes are healthy foods, the foliage of the plants is harmful. In the same family as the wild deadly nightshade plants, these vegetables contain poison in their leaves and vines. The green plant parts contain alkaloids, which can cause cardiac problems that may result in death. The poisonous parts of tomato plants are toxic to both people and livestock.


Rhubarb is a vegetable plant with edible red stalks and poisonous green leaves. Trim the stalks and discard the leaves. The stalks, cooked for jelly and pie filling, are sweet. Leaves, cooked or raw, are highly toxic. Though they resemble edible vegetable greens, the poisonous leaves may cause convulsions and coma, followed by death.


According to Cumberland County Master Gardeners, garden plants should not be removed just because they are poisonous. Many plants are only harmful when ingested in massive quantities. Plants often taste so bitter, like rhubarb leaves, that poisoning is rare. Garden plants including sweet peas, morning glories, lantana and pansies are toxic only if seeds are eaten. Use common sense and store seeds, bulbs and other plant materials away from children and pets.

Keywords: Rhodendron shrub, tomato plant, daffodil bulb

About this Author

Phyllis Benson is a professional writer and creative artist. Her 25-year background includes work as an editor, syndicated reporter and feature writer for publications including "Journal Plus," "McClatchy Newspapers" and "Sacramento Union." Benson earned her Bachelor of Science degree at California Polytechnic University.