Poison or Pretty: Holiday Plants that Pose a Risk and the Symptoms They May Cause

November 30, 2016

As you decorate for the holidays, please beware that some of the plants traditionally used at this time of year can be poisonous. Below, we've provided a list of plants commonly used in Christmas decorating, though this is not a complete list of toxic plants. To help you identify the name of a plant, snip off a small portion of the plant and take it to your local nursery.

If you suspect a plant’s ingestion, call Poison Control immediately. Do not make someone vomit unless instructed by the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Amaryllis: This exotic plant from tropical America and Africa has brilliant-colored flowers and green strap-shaped leaves. A stomach-ache can occur if the bulb is eaten.

Cedar Christmas Trees: Eating the bark can cause a stomach-ache. The sap may cause an itchy skin rash.

Pine, Spruce & Fir Christmas Trees: The needles can cause choking, but are non-toxic.

Holly Berries: The bright red berries are especially attractive to small children. While 1 or 2 berries will not cause symptoms, swallowing more can result in nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhea.

Jerusalem Cherry: This plant has bright orange and dark red berries. Swallowing this ornamental plant can result in vomiting, skin redness, drowsiness or restlessness, and hallucinations. In rare cases seizures may occur.

Mistletoe: While 1 to 2 berries or leaves will not result in serious harm, all parts of this plant are toxic and can cause vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain. Hang it so that leaves or berries that fall cannot be reached by young children or pets.

Poinsettia: Contrary to earlier beliefs, poinsettias are safe to have in the home, though they are not harmless. Eating many leaves may mildly upset the stomach, and the sap may cause skin rash and should be washed off with soap and water.

Pyracantha: The pyracantha plant is a thorny bush that has oblong, shiny leaves, white flowers and a lot of berries during the winter season. Most experts say it is safe to use in decorating, though eating large amounts of these berries can cause stomach pain.

Always keep plants out of reach of small children. If you have questions about the plants listed above or any other plants in your home, call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

If poison control instructs you to go to an emergency room, Providence Staff is ready and waiting.