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Are Poinsettias Poisonous?

Are Poinsettias Poisonous?

Poinsettias are popular Christmas plants due to their red and green color. The big, wide green leaves and the prominent red flowers bring alive the holiday spirit. As much as one would love to bring home poinsettias for Christmas decorations, a constant fear that they are poisonous may stop them. Here, we uncover the mystery behind this belief.
Gardenerdy Staff
Poinsettias were first associated with Christmas in the 16th century. These flowers are native to Mexico. Legend has it that a young Mexican girl did not have anything to gift Jesus on his birthday. An angel came over and inspired her to pick up the weed growing along the road. She then placed this weed on the altar and red flowers blossomed from these weeds miraculously. These weeds were poinsettias, and thus, they soon became a part of the celebration. Also, the leaves together are shaped like a star that symbolized the Star of Bethlehem. Soon, the plant became a part of the American X'mas celebration. But it is believed to be poisonous. Why? Let's find out.

Why is Poinsettia Considered Poisonous?

An urban legend spread during 1919 says that the 2-year-old daughter of an army officer died after she ate a poinsettia leaf. While the story was found to be hearsay, the rumor still lingers on. So, how did the rumor gain so much momentum when this plant is not fatal in reality? This is because Euphorbia pulcherrima or poinsettia belong to the genus Euphorbia. This genus is known for its plants with poisonous and caustic milky sap. This fact may have added fuel to the rumor.

Poinsettias are not toxic. The thick milky sap though, may cause some kind of skin irritation or upset the stomach. It may even cause temporary blindness when exposed to the eye. If one consumes any part of the flower, diarrhea and vomiting may be the only symptoms of irritation observed.

A study conducted by the Ohio State University has proved that more than 500 to 600 leaves of poinsettias need to be consumed by a 50-pound child before it can cause a poisonous reaction. However, if one has an allergy to the plant sap or latex, they should avoid coming in contact with the plant.

Are Poinsettias Poisonous to Cats and Dogs?

While poinsettias are not poisonous to cats and dogs, they may cause vomiting and diarrhea in cats. Old cats or cats with some illnesses may react severely to the sap of the plant. Thus, one should keep this plant out of reach of cats. The Animal Poison Control Center, too, claims mild reactions are observed in pets who eat this plant. Gastrointestinal tract irritation is the only problem your pet may suffer from.

Poinsettia plants do not taste very good. A bite or so is enough for any curious mouth to spit it out. Just make sure you exercise caution and keep your kids and pets away from the plant to avoid any sort of irritation or allergic reaction.