Tropical houseplants have adapted to low light due to the shady conditions they evolved in under the lush tropical canopy of their native home. This ability makes them able to thrive in the home environment. Houseplants offer air purification abilities, they absorb pollutants from the environment and they beautify a home. Despite the many benefits, a few tropical houseplants pose a danger to children and pets because they are poisonous.
The devils backbone (Kalanchoe daigremontiana), native to the rain forest of Madagascar, reaches 3 feet in when raised as a houseplant. Each thick, fleshy leaf measures 6 inches in length. The leaves appear green on top with a purplish undertone on the bottom. The leaf edge has a distinctive frilly appearance. The frilly appearance is made from tiny plantlets that grow along the leaf edge. These plantlets fall off in profusion and can pose a danger due to the plant's toxicity. The plantlets allow the devils backbone to propagate as they form tiny plants around its base.
The plant contains cardiac glycoside, a toxic substance that is found in the stems, leaves and plantlets of the plant.
Swiss Cheese Plant
The Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa) grows to a height of 10 feet. the plant sports large 12-inch leaves that have a perforated appearance. The plant grows as a vine and will require a moss pole or other surface to help support its large size.
The plant contains calcium oxalate, which causes severe burning and blistering of the mouth if chewed. The plant produces fruit that are highly toxic if consumed. Many sensitive individuals have a severe skin reaction from handling the leaves or fruit of the plant.
The angel wings (Caladium x hortulanum) comes in numerous foliage colors. It is grown as a houseplant and also in tropical regions, such as Florida, as an outside ornamental. The plant produces heart-shaped leaves varying shades of green, pink and red. The plant grows 2 feet tall.
All parts of the angel wings plant is poisonous. It contains calcium oxalate, which causes immediate pain and blistering to occur in the mouth. Gastric intestinal symptoms also manifest after consumption.
The Jerusalem cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicum) produces lush green foliage. Each spring it sports tiny white flowers followed by bright red berries. A few varieties have orange or yellow berries.
All parts of the plant are poisonous but leaves and berries are especially toxic. The plant contains solanocapsine. The symptoms after ingestion are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, drowsiness, low blood pressure and a slow pulse rate. Seek medical treatment immediately.