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Beware of poisonous plants


Houseplants have certainly increased in popularity, especially among young people who want clean air in their homes.

I am often asked, “Will this plant affect or be poisonous to my pets” – and even babies.

These questions are relevant, but more importantly I consider the garden to be more hazardous.

For example, my dogs and cats have never eaten plants in my garden or inside, but no doubt this does happen with others. However, I do think they have a strong instinct about what they eat.

For instance, my cats won’t touch milk that isn’t fresh.

Because there are an estimated 550,000 known plant species, there are many plants that, if chewed or swallowed or touched by those allergic, can be dangerous.

Once I was asked to identify a particular Coral Tree that was growing in a park – a vet sought my advice as each time a horse was tethered there it became ill.

After much research, there was only one tree in this genus that could affect horses.

When Clare, my grandaughter was young and we went on walks together, she was excited to see a ripe-looking cherry hanging over a neighbour’s fence – hence I began my education of plant species early as this was a highly poisonous Toxicophlia.

At that time, my message was never eat anything in the garden unless you check.

Some would say that tree should have been removed, but what would happen if Clare had visited a friend whose family had Cotoneaster growing?

The red berries look most attractive to children, but can be toxic, but strangely birds love them and eat them with no effect.

It is important that children up to four, who are most likely to ingest berries, are supervised in the garden and, more importantly, discouraged from eating berries from any plants.

Nerium, or oleander, once so popular, can cause respiratory problems and skin rashes and can require emergency medical treatment.
Last, but not least, one of my pet worries is Datura, commonly known as Angel’s Trumpets.

Sure, it looks spectacular, often seen in gardens and admired because of its long, trumpet-like flowers, but I would never sell it – up to 2001 there were four recorded deaths of this plant being ingested in liquid or smoked.

Why plant such a dangerous plant? Don’t give cuttings to friends.

This week

  • The army grub and black beetles are still causing havoc in lawns – keep up treatments and water Seasol over damaged lawns to increase root production.
  • Before planting autumn flowers and winter veggies, prepare soil with poultry manure at least one week prior.
  • Autumn is the best season for planting – it is cooler (I hope) and yet there is still growing time left until real winter.

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