If there’s one thing that’s naturally plentiful in the state of Florida, it’s flora. In fact, the name of the state is derived from the Spanish word for flowers, courtesy of Juan Ponce de Leon. What the explorer observed gave him the inspiration for the namesake and it’s well deserved, given the amount of sunshine and warm weather. Among all that plant life lurk several unpleasant surprises, toxic plants, which pose a health hazard to people and pets.
In fact, when broken down according to sources, plants are the 14th on the list of poisonings in the whole state, raking-up an astounding number of cases, which are approximately 2,600 to 2,700 per year. That number is only behind sedatives, cosmetics and anti-depressants, but ahead of vitamins, food and antibiotics. Of course, this means that too many people are exposed to toxic plants and it’s not unusual to find some of these right in your own yard.
Invasive Plant Species that Take Over Your Backyard
What’s more, plants can not only be poisonous, but also invasive. The qualifiers of invasive plants are ones which have a high tolerance for different climates, possess multiple reproductive methods, have a large broadcasting system, grow rapidly, and resist active management. Basically, what you think about weeds applies to these type of plants, they never seem to go away and spread, regardless of what you do.
The dazzling foliage of South Florida, both natural and landscaped, contains dozens of species that can hurt you. With its warm year-round climate — the last couple of weeks being the exception — South Florida provides a welcoming home to a vast variety of native and non-native plants containing substances that can irritate skin, damage eyes, slow the pulse, initiate seizures and cause organ failure. —Sun Sentinel
According to the University of Florida, Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, the most invasive plants in the Sunshine State, including Sarasota, are as follows:
- Aquatic soda apple (solanum tampicense)
- Giant salvinia (salvinia molesta)
- Hydrilla (hydrilla verticillata)
- Hygrophila (hygrophila polysperma)
- Napier grass (pennisetum purpureum)
- Torpedograss (panicum repens)
- Water hyacinth (eichhornia crassipes)
- Water lettuce (pistia stratiotes)
- Water spinach (ipomoea aquatica)
- West Indian marsh grass (hymenachne amplexicaulis)
- Wild taro (colocasia esculenta)
Twelve Poisonous Plants to Avoid Putting in Your Landscape
Your yard might look beautiful with all its colorful plants and flowering plants, but it might contain some toxic ones, which include the following:
- Bittersweet nightshade. Purple and yellow, complete with colorful berries is bittersweet nightshade. An invasive plant, it’s also a toxic one and one that is attractive to young children, which makes it a dangerous combination.
- Foxglove. Beautifully white and lushly green, foxgloves are among some of the most common plants in yards across the country. These flourish in dry shade areas, but are dangerous to small children.
- Laurels, azaleas, rhododendrons. All of these are toxic and not only to people, but to domestic pets, as well as livestock. Their beauty can’t be denied, but these are deadly and not a good choice for your landscape.
- Castor beans. This annual does well in northern climates and is a tropical plant. It also serves as the source of the toxin ricin, a poison that’s earned its name in news events and official warnings.
- Yew shrubs. Able to grow in either shade or sun, Japanese yew shrubs and English yew bushes, these can be found in areas where other plants have trouble flourishing. The bright, red berries conceal a seed which is poisonous.
- Poison sumac. The name tells it all and yes, poison sumac is, well, toxic. Unlike the previously listed entries, which must be ingested in some way to be poisonous, poison sumac need only be touched.
- Poison ivy. Like sumac, this plant is toxic to the touch and is poisonous because of an oil known as urushiol. What makes poison ivy so dangerous is how inconspicuous it is, not having any outstanding flowers to make it easy to spot.
- Easter lily. These white trumpets are toxic, especially so to feline family members. Unfortunately, these are quite common, in-part because of their heady perfume scent, which make them more than just visually attractive.
- Stinging nettles. Just like poison sumac and poison ivy, stinging nettles will give your skin a real sting if your brush up against them. Containing tiny spines, which induce rashes, these can be a real pain to rid your yard of but it’s necessary for them to go.
- Yellow dock. According to the ASPCA, yellow dock is considered toxic to canines, and is not safe for dogs.
- Lantana. With its colorful clusters of orange, red, and yellow, lantana is very attractive, but also invasive and toxic, according to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension.
- Lily-of-the-valley. Commonly found as wedding embellishments, looking a bit like chapel bells, these plants are poisonous.
If any of these exists in your yard, you ought to pull them out and replace them with something else.