What you do not smell is called Iocaine Potato...
April 8, 2011 6:33 PM   Subscribe

Will planting potatoes poison the hummingbirds?

I want to plant some "All Blue" potatoes for their pretty blue flowers. But my Mom is worried that since all parts of the potato plant (except the potato itself) are poisonous, the local hummingbird population will drink the nectar from the flowers, and fall over dead. I say that I've seen hummers drink from other poisonous plants (rhodies, milkweed, datura, nicotiana) with no ill effects, but she says maybe they do die just not where we see them. Can someone provide any specific articles or other proof that we will not be causing a hummingbird Jonestown? Thanks!
posted by The otter lady to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
 
according to this site, there are parts of a potato plant that is poison to birds, nectar isn't mentioned.

Your mom is nice to be worried, but wild animals pretty much avoid stuff that is poison to them...
posted by tomswift at 6:44 PM on April 8, 2011


Best answer: Potato flowers produce no nectar
posted by the Real Dan at 6:47 PM on April 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, we grow All Blues in our veggie garden and have had MORE hummingbirds in our yard in the last few years than before.

Given the huge variety of nightshades that grow in the Americas, I would be pretty surprised to learn that they were poisonous TO HUMMINGBIRDS, or that if they were, hummingbirds were too stupid (or ill-evolved) to avoid them. I believe potatoes are insect pollinated, mostly bees.

I've never seen the hummingbirds in our yard pay any attention to the potatoes.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:47 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Think about this logically:

- Hummingbirds have encountered potatoes before. If the flowers can be fed from, they'll know. They'll either drink from them, or barely glance as they battle each other epically over your feeder.

- If potato nectar were that poisonous, there would be no pollinators. Without pollinators, there can be no potatoes.
posted by DisreputableDog at 6:48 PM on April 8, 2011


No.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:56 PM on April 8, 2011


Anecdata: (Anna's, mostly, here) hummingbirds don't seem too interested in flowers that might be bad for them. There are hummingbirds all over the place; they ignore all the poisonous plants (brugmania, datura, oleander) and tend to give their custom to -red- flowers. They are all over firecracker flowers, fuchsia, hollyhocks, and columbine. Anna's hummingbirds are attracted by pink wine in clear glasses, and they can see the color a long way. We love our hummingbirds and tend to believe they're best off when they have a wide field from which to choose.
posted by jet_silver at 7:05 PM on April 8, 2011


Response by poster: Sounds good to me! Thanks!
posted by The otter lady at 7:37 PM on April 8, 2011


If potato nectar were that poisonous, there would be no pollinators. Without pollinators, there can be no potatoes.

Potatoes are self-pollinating. They don't need insects or hummingbirds to visit them. (But as a result, like the Real Dan says above, they don't do anything to attract insects or hummingbirds — so it all works out.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:00 PM on April 8, 2011


- If potato nectar were that poisonous, there would be no pollinators. Without pollinators, there can be no potatoes.

Aside from the fact that potatoes don't need pollinators, it's not that simple in these days of exotic species. California buckeye pollen and nectar is toxic to honeybees, which are non-native to California. However, native bees and other insect pollinators that have evolved along with the trees have no problem with them. Honeybees will usually only turn to buckeye flowers when other forage is scarce, but it can be devastating to hives when that's all there is around them.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:10 PM on April 9, 2011


« Older carpet art   |   Break me out of my auditory rut. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.