Poisonous House Plants

Common names
Poinsettia, Lobster flower, Flame leaf flower

Botanical name
Euphorbia pulcherrima

Poisonous parts
Latex, leaves, stems

Poisonous component

Poinsettias are a nursery plant very popular at Christmas time. With it's fantastic contrast of brilliant red and deep green leaves, this native of Mexico is a true nursery plant as sold today. It is difficult to get them to re-flower - this short day plant requires long, dark, un-interrupted nights for about two months and any interruption in the night period will reset or set back the cycle. Commercial producers graft two varieties together to give a compact, bushy appearance. Infection with a specialized type of bacteria known as a Phytoplasma (a naturally occurring disease organism) induces an abundance of buds, a symptom of the infection.

The bright red leaves are actually bracts (a specialized leaf associated with flowering) and the flower cluster (cyathia) is relatively insignificant. When buying a Poinsettia watch for one that still has it's pollen by inspecting the flower cluster in the center of the bracts. A small amount of yellow pollen showing is fine but if you see a lot then the plant will soon shed its bright red bracts. Cost is related to bloom count, the more blooms present on a poinsettia the more expensive it will be. Red varieties tend to be the most popular but white and pinks are also available.

No longer classified as extremely toxic.
It's reputation as a poisonous plant came from the case of a child in Hawaii who ingested a single leaf. This report was based on hearsay and subsequent studies have not shown the plant to be severely poisonous. Reactions for humans range from dermatitis from contact with the milky sap to nausea and vomiting if ingested. Avoid contact with the eyes.




Toxicity Information
Courtesy of:
Derek B. Munro
Biological Resources Program
Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Centre

Poisonous House Plants
Air Cleaning House Plants

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