Green Thumb: Toxic plants a danger for curious kids, pets
by Sue Davis
Mar 22, 2014 | 4126 views | 0 0 comments | 186 186 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As I was pruning my fruit trees earlier this year, my chocolate Labs were “helping” by picking up the trimmed parts and racing around chewing on them. This proved to be such a great game that they began breaking off stems and leaves of other plants to play with.

The dogs have always helped themselves to snow peas and some of the other vegetables I grow. One of them got an upset stomach after my nephew and nieces visited and everyone was involved in the game of racing around the yard with parts of plants. My sister reported that one of my nieces was also ill. I decided it was time to take a closer look to see if any of the plants in our landscape might have contributed to their illnesses.

Some of the most toxic plants are amaryllis, apricot seeds, cycads (including the Sago palm and cardboard palm), bird of paradise, boxwood, castor beans, flax, grape ivy, hollyhock, landana, lilies, narcissus, nightshade plants (tomato and potato leaves and stems), oleander, and wisteria.

Luckily, none of the plants the children and dogs were playing with were toxic, but because I do have some of those plants in my yard, I am taking them out or fencing them off and will replace some with better choices after we get through this drought year. It doesn’t make sense to nurture plants that might harm my young nephew and nieces who come to visit or cause my dogs injury.

The UC Extension service has a great PDF file on a variety of toxic plants, as well as a good list of plants that are safe for people and links to sites about plants that are not safe for animals. For further research on plants toxic to people, visit, and for pet-toxic plants, go to

Happy gardening.

• The Green Thumb is a column by Tracy’s master gardeners. University of California certified master gardeners are available to answer gardening questions from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 953-6112 or
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