Truth or Poison! Poinsettias Face the Facts.

17 06 2010

Walking around Paradise Gardens you will see a variety of beautiful plants. Some are deadly. Some are just pretty. So which ones pose a threat? I have already mentioned the trumpet flower, also known as angels trumpet, devils trumpet and, if your into Latin, Brugmansia (actually, that is a pretty cool name, I expect to see it popping up in the next vampire series. Edward and Bella meet Dracula and Brugmansia, sounds oh-so vampiresque, dontcha think?).

So the next one I was planning on writing about was poinsettias, that Christmas plant that everyone kills once a year (they are year round, they will live if you take care of them). I mean, everyone knows poinsettias are poisonous to cats, right?? And babies? So we can only assume they ought not be fed to capuchins or tamarins, or even the coati or the tayra. Not that the tayra would be willing to eat it anyway.

But wait… the internet, omniscient fountain of facts, tells me otherwise!

Poinsettias, it seems, got a bad rap way back in 1919 and have stuck with it since then (well, I would too if it kept me from being gnawed on by cats and babies). Apparently a baby died in 1919 after eating some poinsettia and ever since everyone has it in their head that they are poisonous. But no one proved that baby actually died from the poinsettia, and research now indicates that there is almost no way it could have. Nothing before or since has died from poinsettia poison. In fact out of 23,000 kids brought in for poinsettia exposure, none had any toxicity. The American Society of Florists tried to kill a rat with poinsettia but no luck there either. (If it had worked that would have given a new meaning to the line: ’twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse… yeah, ’cause they’d all eaten those poinsettia that were decorating windowsills.)

In fact, the florists (along with some Ohio State researchers) tested quantities so large that they decided a kid weighing 50 pounds would have to eat five to six hundred leaves in order to exceed the doses they tested in their research. So unless you have a lot of poinsettia plants and one very determined child poinsettia seem to be perfectly safe. And even if some kid ate 600 poinsettia leaves, there is no evidence that it would prove toxic or cause any problems other than indigestion and a freaky red stain around the mouth. Which, by the way, is what poinsettias were originally used for, red dye.

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