Poisonous Plants on the Playground

Posted by on January 31, 2009 in Wicked Plants | 3 comments

Rosarypea

photo credit here.

Nice.  According to this news report, a toddler in Florida was out on the playground when a teacher noticed he'd put something in his mouth. It was a rosary pea seed (Abrus precatorius), which contains the deadly toxin, abrin–a poison similar to ricin.  Fortunately, the seed has a hard shell and the boy hadn't chewed it.  So he was  OK. 

But really–these pretty little seeds, shiny and red like candy, are growing on or near a playground?  The fact is that most of us just don't think about the surprising power of the plants all around us.

You're going to be hearing a lot more of this from me over the next few months as I get ready for Wicked Plants' publication.  I've been following these news stories for a few years; now I'll share them with you, and you'll see how common these dangerous run-ins with plants really are!

3 Comments

  1. Frankly, I think we protect our children way too much. I grew up in a very rural setting and learned from a very early age not to eat anything in the yard, at the playground, off the supermarket floor, etc. and if I did decide to touch the proverbial hot stove, well, I learned a valuable lesson the hard way, didn’t I? I understand that toddlers are unlikely to decipher poisonous berry from M&M but that’s exactly why guardians should be doing what this teacher was doing — supervising. Childhood is full of close-calls and boo-boos, indeed, some of those boo-boos can even be fatal which is truly heartbreaking. But let’s not sterilize the world in lieu of allowing our kids to learn how to navigate an otherwise beautiful (albeit dangerous) place.

  2. My plant ID teacher read sections of Plants Poisonous to People in Florida and Other Warm Areas (by Julia Morton) to us the night we covered the Araceae. Very entertaining!
    Interesting/creepy/sad experiments people did on slaves before the Civil War using Dieffenbachia maculata…yuck.

  3. I’m looking forward to more on Wicked Plants. Still learning what’s safe and what isn’t, I’m sometimes surprised by what is said to be toxic, such as Pieris, a lovely plant currently growing big and beautiful in our backyard. My little guy has traipsed up and down the stairs right by it, never paying any attention. But it’s the what if that scares the hell out of me. You can’t keep them safe all the time forever. But you can sure try.