During the holidays we enjoy having all kinds of beautiful wreaths, flower arrangements, swags, and other living decorations. However, if you have pets or small children joining you for the holidays, you need to be aware of plants that can pose a hazard to them. Most plants are not out and out killers, but they can cause a lot of discomfort and possible trips to the hospital.
First off, know your animal. Some animals are totally uninterested in new plants, others have to chew everything. If you plan a new baby pet to be given to someone in the family this Christmas, better to stay away from any, even the mildly toxic, plants. You don’t want to end up in the emergency room with a sick puppy or kitten. Worse yet would be to lose the pet altogether.
Know your children, too. The younger they are the more you have to watch out for ingestion. An infant that is crawling will want to put everything it finds in its mouth. A toddler may be responsive enough to understand when you say no.
Of course being safe is the most important thing. Here are some of the plants frequently used in holiday decorating that can be toxic to pets and/or children.
Poinsettia – It is mainly seen as a non-toxic plant anymore. Breeding has lowered the toxic substances found in them. However, small animals can still have some discomfort if they ingest a lot of the leaves.
Mistletoe – The berries are highly toxic. You should remove the berries and discard them in a safe place if you have critters or children that may munch them.
Holly – I think most people know that the red berries are poisonous, so nix the berries if munchers abound.
Four lesser known, but still highly toxic plants are, bittersweet, boxwood, pine, and Jerusalem cherry (also called winter cherry). Jerusalem cherry is quite toxic and can cause a coma. Pine is toxic in large amounts. Small amounts can be irritating, but if they eat a few pine needles you don’t need to panic.
You might decide to forego live decorations for a few years when you have youngsters, be the human or furry, in your house during the holidays. After they’ve outgrown munching everything in site, you can start using live decorations again.