Green Industry Resources
Hort Update- Seasonal Information for the Green Industry
Use Caution With Holiday Plants
Plants are an attractive and important part of holiday decorating, but in addition to adding both color and beauty to the home they may also present a hazard especially for young children and pets. We all need to be aware of the potential problem certain holiday plants pose. A "poisonous" plant may cause an allergic reaction or rash if the plant's sap gets on the skin. Fatal poisonings are very rare, but some plants can have serious effects if ingested, although large quantities must often be ingested before harmful effects occur.
Jerusalem Cherry, Solanum psuedocapsicum, is a familiar sight during the holidays. This small, sturdy plant has dark green, broadly lance-shaped leaves. The berries are like small round balls, orange or red in color, and are produced mostly on the tips of the branches. All parts of the plant are poisonous with the highest concentrations in the green, unripe fruit and leaves.
Mistletoe, Phoradendron serotinum, is a parasitic plant that grows on the trunks and branches of trees. It has thick, leathery, smooth-edged leaves that occur opposite of each other on the stems. The berries are round and white. Leaves, stems and berries are all toxic.
Poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima, is the most common of holiday plants, and is a frequent source of holiday anxiety. The flowering bracts come in a wide variety of colors, from white or cream to red, making the plant easily recognizable. However, poinsettias are NOT POISONOUS as once believed. Poinsettia sap is primarily a skin irritant and may cause dermatitis or a rash in sensitive people when allowed to contact the skin. Ingestion may also cause gastritis.
English holly is another popular holiday decoration. The dark green, spiny leaves and bright red berries are found in many wreaths, floral centerpieces and garlands. The berries of one holly species, Ilex vomitoria or Yaupon Holly, were used by native Americans in years past as a purgative. If ingested holly berries may cause stomach upset and vomiting. Holly leaves are not toxic.
Unlike the dangerous Jerusalem cherry, Christmas pepper, Capsicum annum conoides, posses no threat to inquisitive youngsters. Its fruits are edible, but very, very hot. The Christmas pepper is a compact plant with erect stems and oblong green leaves. Cone-shaped fruits, which turn from yellow to bright red when ripe, follow white, star-shaped flowers at the tips of the stems. The fruits last for several weeks indoors.