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Poisonous Holiday Plants

Identifying Deadly Holiday Decorations


Updated January 11, 2014


More than 20 holly berries can kill a child.

(c) Grant Faint/Getty Images poinsettia.jpg

Eating poinsettia leaves can upset your stomach.

(c) Mario Villafuerte/Getty Images

Holiday decorations often include flowers and shrubs. Unfortunately, while these items are pretty, many of the most popular are toxic to humans or pets. Here is a list of popular holiday plants and their toxic effects:

Amaryllis hippeastrum Eating the bulb can cause abdominal pain.

Christmas Trees Cedar Ingesting the bark can cause abdominal pain. The sap may cause an itchy skin rash. Christmas trees are a bigger fire danger than poison danger.

Holly Berries ilex Eating 1 or 2 berries should be OK. More than 2 berries can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Minnesota Poison Control says 20 berries can kill a child.

Jerusalem Cherry solanum pseudocapsicum Ingestion can cause vomiting, skin redness, drowsiness or restlessness, and hallucinations. Seizures are possible, but rare.

Mistletoe phoradendron All parts of mistletoe contain toxins. If ingested, mistletoe can cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. According to California Poison Control, one to two berries or leaves eaten by a child will NOT result in serious harm. If you hang mistletoe in your home during the holidays, place it in a piece of netting or a plastic sandwich bag to prevent leaves and berries from dropping to the ground where kids and pets can eat them.

Poinsettia euphorbia Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias have been considered safe for the holiday home since the 1970's. Eating several leaves can give you a stomach ache, and the sap can cause skin rash. Wash away sap with soap and water.

Pyracantha You can eat a large number of berries before getting a stomach ache. Like the poinsettia, this plant is considered safe by experts.

Rosary Pea or Jequirity Bean abrus precatorius These berries are very dangerous. They can be swallowed whole, but can be life-threatening if they are chewed prior to swallowing. Vomiting and abdominal pain occurs within a few hours after swallowing, followed by bloody diarrhea.


"Winter Holiday Safety and Poison Prevention Tips." California Poison Action Line. 21 Nov 2001. California Poison Control System. 14 Nov 2006 http://www.calpoison.org/public/winter-holidays.html.

"Holiday Plants." Poison Help. 2004. Minnesota Poison Control System. 14 Nov 2006 http://www.mnpoison.org/index.asp?pageID=202.

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