Handle with care

18th February 2022

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We love plants…but we also respect them and their potency. It’s good to be aware of what you have in your garden, especially if you have young children and/or pets. Remember that the majority of these plants are only dangerous if ingested in large quantities.

Here are some plants, common in UK gardens to be aware of:


Actaea  (Baneberry) – poisonous; irritant to and via the skin

Taxus baccata  (English Yew) – The fleshy, bright-red berries contain a seed that is toxic. The needle-like leaves are toxic to humans and animals.

Pyracantha – The berries have not been shown to be toxic to animals or humans, although swallowing large amounts might cause some mild stomach upset.

Laurel – Except for Bay Laurel, all other Laurel hedging varieties (including berries) are poisonous to both humans and animals. Laurel hedge plants produce hydrocyanic acid which can cause serious complications if ingested.

Rhododendron & Azaleas – Serious poisoning is unlikely when small pieces of azalea or rhododendron are swallowed. But swallowing large amounts of any part of the plant or honey made from these flowering plants can cause life-threatening symptoms.

Hydrangea spp. – The bark, buds, and flowers are toxic if large quantities are ingested.

Pieris spp. – Like the Rhododendrons (same family), ingestion of these plants cause a disruption in sodium channels affecting the cardiac and skeletal muscle.


Digitalis (Foxgloves) – All parts of the plant are highly toxic if eaten.

Beautiful but toxic Foxglove flowers

Aconitum (Monkshood) – poisonous; irritant to and via the skin.



All parts may cause severe discomfort if ingested.

Clematis – It can cause dermatitis in some people after contact and mild burning sensation and ulcer in mouth, if eaten. However, the symptoms subside soon. Pets don’t tend to touch clematis because of its bitter taste.

Hedera (Ivy) – Contains saponins, which have caused poisoning in cattle, dogs, sheep, and humans. Two chemicals in the sap can also cause severe contact dermatitis in sensitive humans.


Tulipa (Tulips)

“Tulip fingers” is an irritating rash that can occur in people who handle tulips frequently. It is also called “tulip itch” and “tulip nail.” A chemical called tuliposide is responsible for this reaction. Tuliposide is found in other plants, including certain types of lilies. After repeated exposures, the skin’s reactions get worse and a painful rash can occur. This rash can affect both the fingertips as well as the area around the fingernails. Fingernails may become brittle and deformed. In rare cases, affected individuals can develop hoarseness, a runny nose, and difficulty breathing. The skin reaction will heal within a few days, but future contact with tulips can cause the effects to return. Wearing nitrile gloves (not latex) while handling tulips will protect the skin and will prevent “tulip fingers.”

Tulip bulbs are the most poisonous part of the plant, but the stems, leaves and flowers are also toxic.

Narcissus (Daffodils) – Ingestion may cause severe discomfort. May also be a skin irritant.

Hyacinthoides non-scripta (Bluebells) – Eating may cause severe discomfort.

Hyacinthus orientalis – May cause skin irritation and if ingested may cause severe discomfort.

Convallaria  (Lily of the valley) – Highly toxic if eaten.

Small semi-parasitic evergreen shrub:

Viscum album (Mistletoe) – Consumption of its fruit can cause blurred vision, dizziness, nausea, and drowsiness in humans. If an animal eats it, you could be dealing with far more severe consequences, even including death! Whilst it’s a lovely, traditional plant to hang in the home over the festive season, do be careful if you have small children and pets.

Be careful during the Christmas season when bringing Mistletoe, Holly and Ivy into the home.

Contact us for more information

Tel: 0118 934 1757

E-mail: info@thebigplantnursery.com