April 29, 2002: What is the toxicity of common spring and summer plants?

The majority of plants and flowers blooming this time of year do not present a hazard to small children with accidental ingestions.  MTPC receives the most calls about the following plants, which are nontoxic.

  • Impatiens
  • Daisy
  • Geranium
  • Dandelion
  • Monkey Grass
  • Pansy
  • Petunia
  • Rose
  • African violet
  • Zinnia

Chrysanthemum and Daisy plants contain pyrethrins.  Ingestions of a flower may produce mild nausea and vomiting but the symptoms are self-limiting. Pyrethrum and the natural pyrethrins are sodium channel toxins. However, due to rapid metabolic breakdown, ester cleavage, and rapid oxidation, systemic toxicity is low in mammals. Natural pyrethrum contains impurities (such as pyrethrosin), which are allergenic, affecting the skin (rash) and the upper respiratory tract (irritant).

Ingestion of tulips causes no symptoms.  Handling of the plant or bulb may cause dermal reactions such as rash and itching.

Next week’s question of the week will discuss some of spring and summer’s toxic plants.


As always, if there are any questions, call the MTPC.

I am interested in any questions that you would like answered in “Question of the Week.”  Please e-mail me with any suggestions.


Donna Seger, M.D.

Medical Director

Middle Tennessee Poison Center