Subject: Re: Poinsettias It's time to settle the poinsettia argument (yeah, right.) I went

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From: shirriff@sprite.berkeley.edu (Ken Shirriff) Subject: Re: Poinsettias It's time to settle the poinsettia argument (yeah, right.) I went to the library and read several books on poisonous plants. >From "Plants poisonous to people in Florida and other warm areas", J. F. Morton, 1971: Poinsettia: Toxicity: "The sap is caustic like that of other members of the genus. [...] People who carry the trimmings to their trash piles in their bare arms sometimes acquire dermatitis similar to that from poison ivy. [In] March, 1955, the writer saw blisters on all fingers of a young woman who had merely transplanted a small poinsettia that had been given her in a pot at Christmast time. Internally, the sap is highly irritating and very toxic in quantity. Small children in Florida have complained of burning in the mouth and throat from sucking a stem, a leaf or flower-bud. They usually quickly desist because of the acrid and bitter taste. In Jan., 1965, a 2 1/2 year old child in Rochester, NY was exceedingly ill from eating a poinsettia leaf. Dr. H.L. Arnold related in _Poisonous Plants of Hawaii_ that a 2 year old child ate a poinsettia leaf, experienced vomiting, diarrhea, and delirium and died, in 1919. [...] Cattle are poisoned by grazing on the plant but a large bush was consumed by a goat in Costa Rica without apparent harm. >From "Poisonous plants of the Central United States", H.A. Stephens, 1980: Poinsettia: Only one human death has been reported from eating the leaves of the poinsettia. >From "A field guide to poisonous plants and mushrooms of North America", C.K. Levy, R.B. Primacle, 1984: Poinsettia (tissue irritant) As is the case with all Euphorbiaceae, its white milky sap is irritating, but the poinsettias, like many a handsome specimen, has a very bad reputation which may be undeserved. In 1919 there was a report of a child in Hawaii dying after eating poinsettia leaves, and in 1965 there was a two-and-a-half-year-old in Rochester, New York, who became ill after eating poinsettias. However, the leaves are bitter tasting, and most children will spit them out. They will irritate the mouth, the sap is a potent irritant of the eyes. Some laboratory studies with extracts of the plants failed to show any highly toxic substances, but any potent irritant will produce gastrointestinal symptoms if swallowed. Still, to be on the safe side, keep the plant out of the reach of small children. So, I suggest updating the FAQ as follows: F. The red leaves of Poinsettias (aka the Xmas Plant) are deadly poisonous. ["The Poinsettia Myth" in TMP] T. Poinsettia sap and leaves are highly irritating and can harm small children. Ken Shirriff shirriff@sprite.Berkeley.EDU From dog.ee.lbl.gov!tennyson.lbl.gov!twcaps Sun Dec 15 20:53:04 PST 1991 Article 30110 of alt.folklore.urban: Newsgroups: alt.folklore.urban Path: dog.ee.lbl.gov!tennyson.lbl.gov!twcaps >From: twcaps@tennyson.lbl.gov (Terry Chan) Subject: It's That FAQ'ing Time Again [and a bit on Poinsettias] Organization: Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Berkeley References: Message-ID: <20147@dog.ee.lbl.gov> X-Local-Date: Sun, 15 Dec 91 20:29:33 PST Reply-To: twchan@lbl.gov (Terry Chan) Date: Mon, 16 Dec 91 04:29:32 GMT =============================================================================== On Poinsettias =============================================================================== In article shirriff@sprite.berkeley.edu (Ken Shirriff) writes: [Lots of good research on Poinsettias edited around.] +Rochester, NY was exceedingly ill from eating a poinsettia leaf. Dr. H.L. +Arnold related in _Poisonous Plants of Hawaii_ that a 2 year old child ate a +poinsettia leaf, experienced vomiting, diarrhea, and delirium and died, in +1919. + +From "Poisonous plants of the Central United States", H.A. Stephens, 1980: +Poinsettia: Only one human death has been reported from eating the leaves +of the poinsettia. + +From "A field guide to poisonous plants and mushrooms of North America", +C.K. Levy, R.B. Primacle, 1984: +Poinsettia (tissue irritant) +As is the case with all Euphorbiaceae, its white milky sap is irritating, Of mild interest, this is at odds with the _Sunset_ Garden book or whatever it was cited earlier. +but the poinsettias, like many a handsome specimen, has a very bad +reputation which may be undeserved. In 1919 there was a report of a child +in Hawaii dying after eating poinsettia leaves, Regarding the poisoning in Hawaii, Brunvand notes in _The Mexican Pet_ that the Poinsettia myth had its basis on this reputed poisoning of a two year old boy of an Army officer, but "the cause was incorrectly assumed to be a Poinsettia leaf". He supplied no further details. Terry "This is a good reason to follow Dwight Tovey's .sig" Chan

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