COPING WITH HARMFUL PLANTS
Even though a large number of plants appear on lists of dangerous plants, many appear because they have carried over from lists compiled more than 100 years ago from circumstantial evidence. Some plants appear which contain no known toxic substances and have never been involved in livestock or companion animal poisoning.
Also there is usually no distinction between plants containing poisonous substances and plants that may produce mechanical injury. In addition, the ingestion of quantities of any plant material that has not been a part of the regular diet of an animal may cause a transient (temporary) digestive upset. This can range from mild gastroenteritis to a severe impaction. However; this does not mean that the plant is poisonous.
Finally, there are some plants that cause problems with certain species but don't affect other species. A good example of this is the Spider Plant (Chlorophytum somosum) which is bad for cats but fine around birds.
OK …so now that I've got you really confused about which plants are dangerous, here are some things that you can do about it.
#1. KNOW WHAT YOU GROW!
You should be concerned about plants which might be harmful. However; it's more important to know which plants are safe for animals (and in my opinion, children as well). Just as there are lists of poisonous plants, there are also lists of "safe plants". I've posted several of them on this website, noting which species they cover and citing my sources. So make your life simpler, grow only the safe plants. These lists are compiled from different sources, and there will be some overlap.
This brings us to the next key point. Properly identifying plants. Many retailers will sell plants…especially tropical ones as "assorted tropical foliage". Any plant should not only be identified by it's common name but by it's genus and species as well. (Example: Norfolk Pine – Arauicaria heterophyla). In fact you'll even find some plant lists that only use common names. The problem with this is there are plants which are completely different species that share the same common name. These lists are totally worthless. Remember…if the plant is not properly identified, don't grow it!
If you need to identify a plant, there are some worthwhile references that can be used. (A word of caution…in some cases, it can be tough to get a positive ID on a plant even when using good sources.)
Here are some references that I recommend.
#2. ONLY ORGANIC!
Even the "safest" plant can become toxic by the addition of synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.
Be aware of what you apply to your plants and the soil around it. Only use organic products. Here's why…
Many chemical pesticides boast a "quick knockdown" or kill rate. The problem with this is they're not just bad for pests. They also pose serious health risks for people and pets, not to mention birds, frogs, and other beneficial wildlife. Many chemical products will even warn you to avoid the plants for several days after application. Why would you want to jeopardize the health of your loved ones for the sake of a quick fix?
In a natural ecosystem, the predators and parasites help keep plant-eating insects in check. By encouraging biological diversity, you can minimize the need for artificial pest control. If you do need to intervene, there are some organic control tactics that will have little impact on natural systems.
My thoughts on chemical fertilizers are that natural ecosystems make their own fertilizers. As plants and animals die, rodents, insects, earthworms and microscopic soil creatures consume them and nutrients are released to feed new generations. The use of chemical fertilizers not only upsets this cycle, it's literally about pouring poisons into the ground.
Finally, the best reason not to use synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers is…you don't need to! Working with nature always turns out better than working against her. Synthetic chemicals add nothing of lasting value to the soil and in fact, will destroy vital organisms and bacteria. Organic growing methods are harmonious with nature, making good ecological and economic sense. Check out the monthly organic tips at this website.
#1. Remove your pet from the suspected source of toxicant exposure.
#2. Identify what part or parts of the plant your pet has been exposed to.
#3. Contact your veterinarian immediately. Be prepared to answer questions such as:
#4. If you are unable to contact your veterinarian, you may try contacting the National Animal Poison Control @ 1-800-548-2423. However; there is a charge for this service.