Don’t mess with Texas toxic plants: 20 Austin varieties
published on June 11, 2013
Mention “poisonous plant” to an Austin Texan, and poison ivy is the culprit that generally comes to mind. It spreads like wildfire along shady hike and bike trails, green belts, and homes from Lost Creek to Seven Oaks. Yet dozens of common Austin-area plants, both native and exotic, are poisonous to humans. Not all are fatal, but each has dangerous effects, ranging from mild digestive upset to renal failure, coma, and sudden death.
What defines a poisonous plant? According to the Centers for Disease Control, a poisonous plant is one that can cause illness, injury or death if eaten, swallowed, touched, or inhaled. They number in the thousands, and the rules are tricky. While parts of a particular plant may be edible, others may be poisonous. Many South Austin homes with large yards have fruit trees. Did you know apples, while good to eat, have poisonous seeds? Did you know tomato leaves are toxic? So are potato stems, acorns, and mountain laurel seeds!
According to National Capital Poison Center, 614 of the 17,622 cases of hospitalized poisonings for children under six in 2012 were from toxic plants – the most of any subgroup. The majority of poisoning involves children under the age of 5. Who hasn’t seen a baby mouthing a leaf, stick, or blade of grass? How many parents unknowingly give teething toddlers poisonous flowers to hold?
Think twice. Most plant poisonings are unintentional and can be prevented. Start by reading these poison prevention guidelines (courtesy of Austin Regional Clinic) to help keep you and your children safe:
– Keep poisonous plants out of reach.
– Keep an eye on children when they are outdoors.
– A good rule to teach kids is to never eat any plant except those served by adults as food.
– Discuss the difference between wild berries and mushrooms and berries and mushrooms bought at a farmer’s market or grocery store.
– Before buying plants, check with someone at the garden center to find out if they might be poisonous.
– Get to know the poisonous plants found in your local area.
The Texas Poison Control hotline provides emergency assistance for both humans and pets. Call (800) 222-1222 for poison information or assistance. Do not wait for symptoms – call the 24/7 center immediately upon suspected ingestion.
The following list has 20 popular Austin plants and trees with the potential to cause serious illness in infants to adults:
Common Toxic Plants of Austin, Texas*
- Bermuda Grass
- Chinese Tallow Tree
- Chinaberry Tree
- Ligustrum Tree
- Mimosa Tree
- Maple Tree
- Mesquite Tree
- Oak Tree
- Poison Ivy/Oak/Sumac
- Red Buckeye
- Texas Mountain Laurel
- Texas Persimmon Tree
- Wild Onion
Poisonous grasses, flowers, shrubs, and trees are common in Central Texas landscapes, and often so seemingly innocuous that even the best caretakers are unaware of the health risks they pose to both people and pets. Most plant poisonings are unintentional and can be prevented. Educate and protect your family: treat unknown plants with respect, and teach children to do the same!
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*For a complete list of toxic Texas plants from your local Agrilife Extension, click here! The pictures will help you identify toxic and deadly plants around the house and in the neighborhood.
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