While we all like to think of our garden as a safe and secure place, and although most of the plants we commonly grow are no danger to us or our children, there are some which can represent a serious – and sometimes fatal – threat.
By no means all of them are wildflowers and weeds; some of the worst potential offenders are amongst our well-known garden favourites. Inevitably, it tends to be small children who are most likely to get into trouble by eating, licking or touching harmful plants, completely oblivious of the danger they pose. When it comes to keeping a garden friendly and safe for kids, there are a few plants which it’s simply best to avoid.
Bulbs And Berries
Although they enjoy a timeless popularity, many of the commonest bulbs in the garden can be harmful – especially to young children. Daffodils and hyacinths are particularly dangerous if eaten and while it’s difficult to contemplate avoiding these old favourites altogether, if there are children in the house – or likely to visit – a good degree of vigilance is clearly required.
Beautiful though the tumbling yellow flowers of laburnum may be, the trees – and especially the seed pods they produce – are seriously poisonous, as are the un-ripened berries of the elderberry. Unless children are old enough to be able to take safety warnings on board, both are best avoided.
Wildflowers And Weeds
Deadly Nightshade ( Atropa belladonna ) is probably the most famous of the poisonous British native plants.
The potent medicinal drug, atropine, is produced from its leaves and its berries are hallucinogenic and highly toxic; incredibly, it was once used to dilate women’s pupils in the belief that it made them more attractive – hence the name “bella donna” – Italian for beautiful lady.
Despite its cosmetic past, it is one of the world’s most toxic plants. Its dark, sweet-tasting berries are the greatest threat to children – eating as few as two to five can be lethal – while consuming a single leaf can also prove fatal. Keeping this plant out of your garden – together with its less toxic, but equally unwelcome relative, Woody Nightshade – makes obvious sense.
Foxgloves (Digitalis spp.) is another one to be careful of, as some of the plant’s old country names – such as Witches’ Gloves and Dead Man’s Bells – suggest. The whole plant, including its roots and seeds, is poisonous typically causing irregular heartbeat, vomiting, hallucinations and delirium – and fatalities are not unknown.
More than a few garden favourites make the list of poisonous plants too, such as:
- Daphne – poisonous and a skin irritant
- Lily-of-the-Valley – poisonous
- Lupins – poisonous
- Morning Glory – poisonous
- Oleander – poisonous
- Philodendron – poisonous; an irritant of skin and eyes
- Water Arum – poisonous; an irritant of skin and eyes
- Yew – berries are highly poisonous
There are a number of others – so if you’re at all unsure, it’s well worth checking with your local garden centre or horticultural society or looking them up in a good reference book to be on the safe side.
Unfortunately some of the plants which are best avoided in the kids’ garden are fairly showy and spectacular, but there are plenty of far less potentially dangerous alternatives. In the end, it has to better to miss out on a little colour than risk potentially disastrous consequences.