Subject: Re: Poinsettias It's time to settle the poinsettia argument (yeah, right.) I went
From: email@example.com (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.
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:
>From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Terry Chan)
Subject: It's That FAQ'ing Time Again [and a bit on Poinsettias]
Organization: Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Berkeley
X-Local-Date: Sun, 15 Dec 91 20:29:33 PST
Reply-To: email@example.com (Terry Chan)
Date: Mon, 16 Dec 91 04:29:32 GMT
In article firstname.lastname@example.org
(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
+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
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank