Poisonous Plants

Poisonous plants are divided into several groups according to the chemicals they contain. The most dangerous plants contain one of these three chemicals:

  • Solanine
  • Grayanotoxins
  • Cardiac glycosides

If your child eats any amount of these three plant groups, contact your physician or the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 immediately.

Each case needs individual evaluation and the Poison Control Center's recommendations will vary with the amount and time of ingestion.

  • Do not try to treat the exposure before consulting a healthcare professional.
  • Do not induce vomiting without consulting your physician or the Poison Control Center because, in some cases, vomiting may affect your child's heart rate.
  • Solanine

    Solanine is found in food and ornamental plants. Unripe tomatoes and the green "eyes" of potatoes contain solanine that can cause moderate nausea, vomiting, headache and diarrhea.

    Eating large quantities can cause drowsiness, sweating, and changes in blood pressure and heart rate. Most effects are seen within 2 to 24 hours. Diarrhea may last for three to six days.

    Examples of plants which contain solanine:

    • Jerusalem Cherry
    • Nightshade
    • Potato (sprouts)
    • Tomato (unripe)
  • Grayanotoxins

    The major effects of eating grayanotoxin-containing plants are immediate. Eating or chewing on leaves of this plant group — including azaleas and rhododendrons — can cause burning, numbness and tingling of the mouth.

    Two to three hours later, other signs of poisoning may occur, including nausea, vomiting, sweating, confusion, and slowing of the heart rate. There have been reports of seizures with severe overdoses.

    Azalea leaves are particularly dangerous; swallowing three or more leaves is cause for concern.

    Examples of plants that contain grayanotoxins:

    • Azalea
    • Lambkill
    • Mountain Laurel
    • Rhododendron
  • Cardiac glycosides

    Plants that contain cardiac glycoside can cause changes in the rate or rhythm of the heart. Many heart medications currently on the market are derived from these plants.

    Poisoning with cardiac glycosides often occurs when these plants are incorrectly used as a tea. The initial signs of poisoning are headache, confusion, dizziness, vomiting or stomach pain. Later, effects on heart rate and blood pressure occur.

    Examples of plants which contain cardiac glycosides:

    • Foxglove
    • Lily-of-the-Valley
    • Oleander
    • Squill

Reviewed by The Poison Control Center on October 01, 2013