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Poisonous Plants: Five Common Plants You Might Not Realize are Poisonous

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There are many plants we've all been warned to avoid, like caster bean and Datura. Some plants, like poinsettia, have gotten worse reputations than they deserve. But there are many common garden and house plants that can cause poisoning problems, from itching to death. You know not to go taste testing plants just because they look or smell luscious, but use extreme caution when gardening around small children and pets. There are many excellent web sources to turn to, listing which plants are poisonous and what problems they cause. Here are 5 common plants you may never have considered as poisonous or dangerous.

1. Chinese Lantern Plant, Strawberry Ground Cherry (Physalis alkekengi)

Chinese Lantern Plant, Strawberry Ground Cherry (Physalis alkekengi)
Photo: Lars Sundström / Getty Images. Used with Permission.
We grow these for the colorful, fun pods and the ripened fruits are sometimes used to make jams and jellies, but use extreme caution unless you know what you are doing. The unripe berries can be highly toxic and possibly fatal.

Poisonous Parts: Unripe berries, leaves.

Symptoms: Headache, stomachache, vomiting, diarrhea, low temperature, dilated pupils, breathing problems and numbness.

2. Chrysanthemum, Garden Mum (Chrysanthemum X morifolium, a.k.a. Dendranthema X gra

Chrysanthemum, Garden Mum (Chrysanthemum X morifolium, a.k.a. Dendranthema X grandiflorum)
Photo: © Marie Iannotti (2008) licensed to About.com, Inc.
What would fall be without mums? Unfortunately garden mums can be a severe skin irritant. If you haven't had problems handling mums before, perhaps you're not susceptible. But it's good to know the signs to watch out for, before the problem gets out of hand.

Poisonous Parts: Leaves, flowers.

Symptoms: skin reddening, scaling, blisters.

3. Hydrangea (Hydrangea spp.)

Hydrangeas
Photo: © Marie Iannotti (2008) licensed to About.com, Inc.
The only animals I've seen munching on my hydrangeas are rabbits. Humans should avoid them for several reasons including: stomach upset, skin irritation and, in severe cases, more serious problems like convulsions and coma.

Poisonous Parts: Leaves, flowers, bark.

Symptoms: stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and sweating.

4. Lantana (Lantana camara)

Lantana (Lantana camara)
Photo: © Marie Iannotti (2008) licensed to About.com, Inc.
Lantana has become a garden staple. As a skin irritant, it only causes mild and/or short term irritation, so you might not even have noticed that it bothered you. However if the berries are ingested, it is highly toxic and possibly fatal. You might not be tempted, but watch for kids and pets.

Poisonous Parts: Green, unripened berries, leaves (skin irritant)

Symptoms: vomiting, diarrhea, dilated pupils, trouble breathing.

5. Rhododendron & Azalea (Rhododendron spp.)

Azaleas
Photo: © Marie Iannotti (2008) licensed to About.com, Inc.
The deer might love them, but for mere mortals, all parts of Rhododendron and Azalea plants are extremely toxic if ingested and may be fatal. Seek medical help immediately.

Poisonous Parts: All

Symptoms: burning in the mouth, salivation, watery eyes and nose, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, difficulty breathing, weakness, abdominal pain and progressive paralysis of arms and legs. Ingesting rhododendron can affect your heart beat and cause convulsions and coma.

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