University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Poisonous Plants                              OH 20

Leonard Perry, Extension Professor

Many native and exotic plants in our environment may cause either mild irritation or serious sickness when touched or eaten. The word "poison" may excite unnecessary fear. Poisonous plants include some that cause only mild irritation as well as those that are highly toxic. To say that a plant is poisonous does not imply that all parts of the plant are poisonous, nor does it imply that it is poisonous for all people. For example, the rhubarb plant has both edible parts (leaf stems) and poisonous parts (leaf blades). Reactions to poisonous plants maybe caused by contact, or by eating the toxic parts of these plants. Some people are more sensitive than others to poisonous plants.

The following list includes some of the common poisonous plants. There are other plants that are sometimes toxic which are not mentioned in this list. Some plants not on this list, like many manufactured products in the home, may under some conditions cause toxic reactions for certain people. The human body is highly variable. As a general rule, avoid eating plants not known to be useful as food. This list was compiled from several books on poisonous plants. Contact a poison control center through your medical doctor or hospital if unknown plant material has been ingested.

Plants Reportedly Poisonous to Eat
House, Ornamental and Christmas Plants
Common Name Scientific Name Toxic Parts
Rosary pea, crabseye, jaquirity bean Abrus precatorius Seeds
Belladonna, deadly nightshade Atropa belladonna All parts, esp. black berries
Caladium Caladium spp. All parts
Elephant ear Colocasia esculenta All parts
Dumbcane Dieffenbachia spp. All parts
Carolina jessamine, yellow jessamine, evening trumpet flower Gelsemium sempervirens All parts
Hyacinth Hyancinthus orientalis Bulbs
English holly Ilex aquifolium Berries
American holly Ilex opaca Berries
Lantana Lantana camara Berries
Narcissus, daffodil, jonquil Narcissus Bulbs
Oleander Nerium oleander Leaves, twigs, flowers
Mistletoe Phoradendron serotinum Berries
Castor bean Ricinus communis All parts, especially beans
Jerusalem cherry Solanum pseudocapsicum Fruits
Wisteria Wisteria spp. Seeds and pods
Flower and Garden Plants
Common Name Scientific Name Toxic Parts
Monkshood Aconitum spp. All parts, esp. roots, seeds
Autumn crocus Colchicum autumnale All parts
Lily-of-the-Valley Convallaria majalis All parts
Larkspur Delphinium spp. Seeds, young plants
Dutchmen's breeches, Bleeding heart Dicentra spp. All parts, esp. tubers, roots
Foxglove Digitalis pupurea Leaves, seeds, flowers
Iris Iris versicolor Roots, stalks, leaves
Vegetable Garden Plants
Common Name Scientific Name Toxic Parts
Irish potato Solanum tuberosum Vines, green tubers, sprouts
Rhubarb Rheum rhabarbarum Leaf blade
Trees and Shrubs
Common Name Scientific Name Toxic Parts
Horsechestnut Aesculus hippocastanum Nuts, leaves, dried fruits, sprouts
Privet Liqustrum vulgare Berries
Apple, Crabapple Malus spp. Seeds
Chokecherry Prunus virginiana All parts
Oaks Quercus spp. Acorns, young shoots
Laurels, Azaleas, Rhododendrons Rhododendron spp. Leaves, twigs, flowers
Black locust Robinia pseudoacacia Bark, seeds, twigs
Elderberry Sambucus canadensis Roots, stems, leaves, unripe fruit
Yews Taxus spp. All parts
Plants in Wooded Area
Common Name Scientific Name Toxic Parts
Baneberry Actaea spp. All parts
Jack-in-the-Pulpit Arisaema triphyllum Roots, leaves
Water hemlock Cicuta spp. Roots
Mayapple, Mandrake Podophyllum peltatum Roots, foliage, unripe fruit
Skunk cabbage, False Hellebore Veratrum viride All parts, esp. roots
Plants in Fields, Pastures or Wild
Common Name Scientific Name Toxic Parts
Poison hemlock Conium maculatum Seeds, roots
Jimsonweed Datura stramonium All parts
Pokeweed Phytolacca americana Roots, young shoots, berries
Buttercup Ranunculus spp. Seeds, young plants
Horse nettle Solanum carolinense Leaves, berries
European bittersweet Solanum dulcamara Leaves, berries
Nightshade Solanum nicrum Leaves, berries (esp. unripe)
Death camas Zicadenus spp. Bulbs
Plants Sometimes Poisonous to Touch
Common Name Scientific Name Toxic Parts
Nettles Cridoscolus spp. Contact with stinging hairs
Lady slipper Cypripedilum spp. Contact with leaves
Spurges Euphorbia spp. Contact with milk sap from leaves and stems
Iris Iris spp. Contact with rhizomes (roots)
Parsnip Pastinaca sativa Contact with all parts
Buttercup Ranunculus spp. Contact with leaves
Poison ivy, oak, sumac Toxicodendron spp. Contact with all parts


Poison Information Centers:

800-222-1222 (in VT): Fletcher Allen, Burlington, VT 05401
603-650-8000 (800-222-1222 in NH): Dartmouth- Hitchcock Hospital, Hanover, NH 03756

(Appreciation is expressed to Susan Littlefield for assistance in preparing this publication.)

Return to Perry's Perennial Consumer Page

Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture. Lawrence Forcier, Director, UVM Extension System, Burlington, Vermont. University of Vermont Extension System and U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating, offer education and employment to everyone, without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, and marital or familial status.

Last reviewed 2003