Toxic plants and poisonous flowers can hide their danger in their beauty. What makes for a wonderfully visual garden can sometimes cause problems for children, pets and livestock. These poisonous plants need to be put well away from anything that might mistake bright berries or their pretty blooms for a meal.
Nerium oleander from the dogbane family is a fragrant evergreen shrub. It can get up to 20 feet tall and 10 feet in width. Flowers colors come in yellow, salmon, red, pink and white. Leaves are leathery and 4 to 10 inches long. Oleander is typically used for hedges, screens or as an accent shrub. It can be a skin irritant if touched, and if burnt, the smoke should not be inhaled. All parts of this plant are toxic and should not be around children and pets.
Ricinus communis, the castor bean plant from the spurge family, is an evergreen annual shrub. It gets up to 40 feet tall and 15 feet in width, with 8 to 15 feet being the norm. Leaves are reddish green or purplish, and 12 to 30 inches wide. It can be a weed in some places. Typically it is used to create a tropical garden theme. The seed coat contains ricin, one of the most poisonous of the naturally occurring chemicals. The plant can be extremely toxic.
Consolida ajacis, the larkspur plant from the buttercup family, is an annual that attracts hummingbirds. White, pink or lilac flowers get 2 to 3 feet tall and bloom in spring and summer. There are many cultivars with subtle differences. The plants are usually used for borders and English gardens. Touching the leaves can give contact dermatitis, and eating the leaves and flowers can result in gastric issues. Seeds are known as poisonous. The plant should be kept away from pets, cattle and children.
Digitalis purpurea, or the foxglove plant from the figwort family, is a shade-tolerant perennial grown as an annual. Leaves are white and woolly or dark green, 5 to 10 inches long, arranged in a rosette. Flower stalks can get 3 to 5 feet tall with tubular purple, cream, yellow, white, lavender or pink flowers. Flowers come spring and summer. It is used for borders and woodland gardens, as well as medicinally as a heart drug (digitalis). Every part of the plant is toxic if eaten, so pets, children and livestock should never roam unseen around the plant.
Pieris japonica, the lily of the valley bush from the heath family, is an evergreen fragrant shrub. Bell-shaped flowers come in winter and spring, white or pink, and fragrant. The shrub get 8 to 12 feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide. Leaves go from red to green and are 2 to 3 inches long. It is used for a woodland garden or hedge. The foliage of the lily of the valley bush is toxic to cattle, and children and pets should be careful around it.
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