Grandson in the garden
With a new arrival to our family I started to look at the safety of our garden. We began with the obvious things like removal of two small stagnant ponds from the patio, and fencing off a high drop at the rear of the garden that would have been a playground for an investigating toddler. Once I had dealt with the obvious, my thoughts switched to other dangers that may lurk in the garden.
From childhood we are all made aware of stinging nettles, giant hogweed, acorns, toadstools and deadly nightshade. Many common houseplants like poinsettia, dumbcane and cheese plants are also poisonous and have harmed bored cats and dogs through the chewing of leaves.
The main problem of poisoning in children are berries or seeds, as they are small objects that can easily put into their mouths; this is the most common enquiry to the poison unit at hospitals.
I looked at the top three nasties (as supplied by The children’s hospital, Westmead) that should not be planted in a garden used by toddlers. Asthma or stickweed (parieteria judaica) which has associations with asthma attacks and can cause skin allergies, rhus (toxicodendron succedaneum) causing allergic reaction from all parts of the plant and yellow oleander (thevetia peruviana) where all parts of the plant are toxic, seeds are poisonous and highly appealing to children.
Oleander (flowering shrub of Southern Europe) sticks have been known to poison dogs and give off poisonous fumes on barbeques, the sap causes soreness and irritation to the skin and the seeds are poisonous containing glycosides, the same as Foxglove which affects the heart. The shrub is also known as the suicide tree due to the seeds it produces. Flowers are shades of red, pink, yellow and white.
My concerns turned to plants that I actually grow in the garden, including daffodils, narcissus, arum lily, agapanthus and amaryllis. I found that although the majority of the components do no harm, the bulbs are poisonous. As many toddlers have their own fork and spade, care should be administered.
Morning Glory another beautiful plant, have seeds that are also deadly and have been used by the Mexican Indians to cause halluciagenic effects similar to LSD.
All parts of the following plants are poisonous. Lily of the valley, bluebells, autumn crocus, monkshood, delphinium, larkspur, laburnum tree, greater celandine, iris, yellow jasmine and wisteria. Seeds of the lupin and honeysuckle berries are poisonous; hydrangea in large amounts can cause poisoning.
Approximately one in every hundred specimens of plant is poisonous, which shows how many plants have the potential to be dangerous to a small child. Although there are no common characteristics which distinguish a poisonous plant, as a general rule always be aware of plants with a bitter taste, funny smell, milky sap or with red seeds or berries. Common sense must prevail; small children should not be left unsupervised in the garden due to the various dangers that exist.
After reading up on this subject it has opened my eyes to the potential dangers, which are all around. I will certainly investigate plants I buy for the garden with much more care in future.