There are many poisonous plants in the world and it would be exceptional if a garden existed that did not have a single poisonous plant in it.

Despite the numerous poisonous plants that are around statistics shows that the number of acute cases of humans being poisoned by plants is extremely small when compared to the cases caused by pesticides and other means. Of the human cases that do occur the greatest number are in the 1 to 5 year old age group and therefore it is very important for parents to teach their children never to eat leaves, berries, seeds or roots found in the garden. It is also good for parents to point out these plants to children as they grow older so that they recognise those plants that are particularly poisonous.

With this purpose in mind this article sets out some common plants that are in many gardens which are poisonous.

Oleander (Nerium oleander) is a very common exotic garden shrub or pot plant, with handsome flowers, very drought tolerant, that is seen in all areas of Kenya. All parts of the plant are poisonous.

28166415-4fc2-4ff0-8db2-f4384764fda0Moonflower (Brugmansia candida, previously known as Datura) is also a very common exotic shrub to 5 m seen inmany gardens. They have large, heavily scented, hanging flowers, in white cream or pink. All parts are poisonous.

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (Brunsfelsia pauciflora), an exotic shrub to 2 m with heavily scented white, mauve and purple flowers is also poisonous.

Poison Arrow Tree (Acokanthera oppositifolia), an attractive small indigenous tree to 5 m with glossy green leaves, masses of sweetly scented small white flowers, followed by plum like fruits. The roots and bark are boiled to produce the poison. The toxicity of the fruit is very variable.

The milky latex of all exotic and indigenous Euphorbia species is very poisonous and can lead to permanent blindness if it gets into the eyes.

b7289de0-41f1-4f8e-a7ba-e1bea6868efaPersian Lilac (Melia azedarach), is a medium sized exotic tree to 7 m that has compound glossy green leaves. It ha strongly scented mauve/white sweetly scented flowers, which are followed by small yellowish brown berries. All parts are poisonous but especially so are the very ripe seeds which often is the cause of poisoning of small children

Sorrel (Oxalis latifolia), the dreaded Mexican weed that invades most gardens, is not really poisonous, but the leaves and bulbs contain oxalic acid which if eaten in quantity can leave you with a nasty tummy ache.

All species of shrubby Solanums are poisonous, especially the fruit. This includes the indigenous S. incanum, a small shrub to 2 m and the exotic very invasive S. mauritianum, that is seen all around Nairobi.

Brazilian Pepper Trees (Schinus mollis and S. terebinthifolius), are widely grown for their drought tolerance and shade with the seeds sometimes used as a pepper substitute but they are poisonous and can be harmful if ingested in large quantities.

d801f298-3c6c-429e-b1fc-41e447f51218Yellow Oleander or Yellow Alamanda (Thevetia peruviana), a shrub with bright yellow flowers from Mexico andnorthern South America is widely grown throughout Kenya. It can attain a height of 10 m but has leaves, flowers, seeds and latex that are all extremely poisonous.

This article does not cover the many other poisonous plants that can be found in gardens and for those interested books can be found in the local bookshops that have more details.

Barry Cameron