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Poisonous Plants

The following plants are dangerous, either to touch or eat. There are many other plants that can make you sick or cause a bad reaction. Because a plant is not listed here does not mean it is safe for humans or pets. The plants listed here are some of those about which the poison center often receives calls.

 

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Candelabras Cactus (Euphorbia lactea)
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Description:
A many-branched succulent spiny shrub or tree with milky sap. Although it is often times mistakenly referred to as a cactus, it is actually in the genus Eurphorbia. Branches are 3-4 inches, angled, with a white band down the middle of each side. Ridges are wing-like and spiny. There are tiny leaves between the spines. This is a cultivated plant.

Poisonous Parts:
The milky sap. Avoid contact with skin or eyes.

 

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Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium iempervirens)
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Description:
Cultivated evergreen vine, shrubby and twining, and grows to about 20 feet. Pairs of shiny light green 1-4 inch long leaves on long, streamer-like branches. Fragrant, tubular yellow flowers 1-1.5 inches long in late winter and early spring.

Poisonous Parts:
Entire plant.

 

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Castor Bean (Ricinus communis)
Image of castor bean bush
Image of castor bean seeds

Description:
A cultivated shrub that may freeze back in cold areas. Grows 6-15 feet tall. Large-lobed leaves are 1-3 feet across on young plants, smaller on older plants. The mottled black, brown and white glossy seeds are enclosed in a spiny husk and grow in clusters on the seed stalk.

Poisonous Parts:
Entire plant, especially the seeds

 

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Century Plant (Agave americana)
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Description:
Cultivated succulent. Large clumps of fleshy strap-shaped leaves to 6 feet long with hooked spines along the edges and a wicked spine at the tip, blue green in color. After 10 years or more, the plant produces a branched 15-40 ft. flower stalk bearing yellowish green flowers. There are several varieties with yellow or white striped leaves.

Poisonous Parts:
Sap. Avoid contact with skin or eyes

 

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Chinaberry Tree (Melia azedarach)
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View chinaberry leaves, flowers, berries

Description:
Cultivated spreading tree 30-50 feet high. One to 2 inches long, narrow or oval, toothed leaflets. Loose clusters of purple flowers in spring or early summer, followed by yellow, wrinkled, hard, berry-like fruit one-half inch across.

Poisonous Parts:
All parts, the fruit is generally involved

 

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Dumbcane (Dieffenbachia)
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Description:
Evergreen indoor plant (may grow outside in protected areas in warmer climates), that may reach to 6 feet in height. The leaves are large, oblong, and entirely green or mottled white and green.

Poisonous Parts:
Entire plant

 

 

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Eucalyptus
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View leaf and berry closeup
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Description:
Cultivated evergreen tree or shrub. About 150 different kinds grown in Arizona. Height may vary from 10-200 feet. Many different shapes of leaves but almost all leaves have a distinguishing pungent fragrance especially when they are crushed.

Poisonous Parts:
All parts

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Foxglove (Digitalis)
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Description:
Garden flower. Erect plants 2-8 feet high with tubular flowers shaped like fingers of a glove in purple, yellow, white, pastels. Hairy, gray green leaves grow in clumps at base of plant.

Poisonous Parts:
Entire plant

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Jimson Weed (Datura stramonium)

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Description:
Native plant. Weedy shrub to 4 feet with stout stems and foul-smelling leaves. Leaves are large and oval with wavy edges. They are up to 6 inches long. The trumpet shaped flowers are large (6 inches) and showy, varying in color from white to purple. The fruit is a round prickly capsule to 2 inches in diameter.

Poisonous Parts:
All parts, particularly the seeds and leaves

 

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Lantana (Lantana sp.)
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Description:
Cultivated shrub that grows up to 6 feet tall. May freeze back in colder areas. Leaves are oval shaped with toothed edges. Individual flowers are small and tube-shaped. They are clustered together to resemble a single bloom one inch in diameter. Flowers are white, yellow, orange, red, blue or a mix of several colors. Fruit is berry-like with a hard seed, turning blue-black when ripe.

Poisonous Parts:
All parts, but especially the green berries

 

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Mexican Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima)
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Description:
Cultivated shrub or small tree. Evergreen but may freeze back in the colder climates. Grows to 10 feet in height. Leaves are oblong and small. The flowers are yellow with long, colorful red filaments (stamens). Seed pods are flat and shaped like a pea pod. They are 2-4 inches in length.

Poisonous Parts:
Pods and seeds

 

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Mistletoe (Phoradendran species)
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View mistletoe in cacti

Description:
Parasites that grow on trees and shrubs. Pairs of leaves grow on opposite sides of the stem and vary from scales to oblong and leathery leaves. Fruits are small white to pinkish berries with a sticky pulp. The plants grow up to 18 inches in diameter.

Poisonous Parts:
All parts, but especially the berries

 

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Oleander (Nerium oleander)
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Description:
Cultivated shrub to small tree. It grows 8-12 feet in height with narrow lance-shaped leaves 4-12 inches long. They are dark green, leathery and glossy. Two-3 inch flowers are white, pink, red or salmon and they cluster at the ends of branches. Fruits are long slender capsules, the seeds having a tuft of hair.

Poisonous Parts:
Entire plant

 

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Philodendron (Philodendron species)
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Description:
Cultivated houseplant, but may grow outdoors in warmer climates. Many varieties, with 2 main classes; vining or the large (6 - 8 ft. high) erect type with a self-supporting trunk. Plants have a wide range of appearance. Leaves can be triangular,heart shaped, fanned and feathery. They can vary in color from green to red to white.

Poisonous Parts:
Entire plant

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Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

Description:
Climbing vine grown as a houseplant. Heart shaped leaves 2-4 inches long, bright green splashed or marbled with yellow.

Poisonous Parts:
Entire plant

 


 

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Silver Leaf Night Shade (Solanum elaeagnifolium)
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Description:
A weedy shrub that can be found growing wild in Arizona up to an elevation of 5,000 feet. This plant can grow up to 3 feet in height. The leaves are up to 4 inches long, silvery, oblong with wavy edges and spines on the underside. The purple star-like (5-point) flowers grow up to 1.5 inches wide. They are followed by a one-half inch diameter mottled or green striped berry which becomes yellow or orange yellow at maturity.

Poisonous Parts:
Green fruit

 

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Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundiflora)
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View seeds and pods

Description:
Cultivated evergreen shrub or small tree. Grows to 25 feet high, with smooth bark, its dark green oval leaflets are 1-2 inches long. Blooms February-April; inch-wide violet blue flowers are grouped together in 4-8 inch clusters. Silvery gray, woody, 1-8 inch long seed pods open on ripening to show bright red one-half inch seeds.

Poisonous Parts:
Entire plant, especially the seeds

 

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Tree Tobacco (Nicotiana glauca)
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Description:
Shrub or small tree to 20 feet that grows wild in Arizona below 3,000 feet elevation. The leaves are bluish green, long stalked, oval and smooth up to 7 inches long. The pale yellow, tubular flowers are up to 2 inches long and are in dense loose clusters at the ends of the branches.

Poisonous Parts:
Entire Plant

 

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Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus inserta)
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View closeup of ripe berries

Description:
A woody climbing vine found growing wild in Arizona in moist canyons and roadsides at 3,000 to 7,000 feet elevation. Leaves are dark green and shiny with toothed edges. They are up to 4 inches long and 5 - 7 leaflets are joined together from a central spot. Flowers are small and greenish, growing in clusters at the tips of branches. Fruit is a black or blue-black berry to one-quarter inch wide.

Poisonous Parts:
Berries and probably leaves

 

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Yellow Oleander (Thevetia peruviana)
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Description:
Cultivated shrub or small tree typically 6-8 feet in height. Leaves are 3-6 inches long, very narrow, with edges rolled under. Leaves are deep green and glossy. Flowers are tubular, fragrant, 2-3 inches long, orange or yellow and found in clusters at branch ends. Fruits are triangular and red or yellow, turning black when mature.

Poisonous Parts:
Entire plant, especially the fruit

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Updated: Monday, 15 July 2013