Should foxglove be removed from a garden used by a toddler?
July 2, 2012 11:44 AM   Subscribe

Should foxglove be removed from a garden used by a toddler?

Our garden has some foxglove plants in it, planted by some previous owner. Should we be concerned about our daughter (now 19 months) coming into contact with them? She's at the mobile-and-very-curious stage, loves playing with the plants and still puts things in her mouth, but it is in a corner of the garden away from everything.

I've found some relevant Internet pages but they vary from 'foxglove is deadly, remove it now' to 'it's only dangerous if you eat lots of it'.
posted by Grinder to Home & Garden (18 answers total)
I can only give you my opinion but I removed it. I have a 15 month old and didn't want to be worried about it when he plays.
posted by saradarlin at 11:50 AM on July 2, 2012

I also took out the Lily of the Valley.
posted by saradarlin at 11:51 AM on July 2, 2012

I think I'd make two phone calls, one to your local Gardener's Extension for some gardener-to-gardener advice and another to your local poison control hotline. The latter is likely to be pretty conservative.
posted by amanda at 11:54 AM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think it depends how much you like the plant, the general temperament of your daughter, and whether you can commit to supervising her closely while she is in the yard. My daughter is the same age, and it would not be a problem for us to be out there with a plant like foxglove. If my kid puts a leaf in her mouth, I make a "bleecch" kind of face and she will frown and take the leaf out of her mouth immediately. If you think your particular daughter would actually eat the plant (like chew and swallow) then by all means remove it from your yard. But my kid will not even chew and swallow salad leaves at dinner, then are too bitter for her taste.
posted by fancyoats at 12:05 PM on July 2, 2012

I've had occasion to call Poison Control for local berries my kid ate, and was very relieved I did. Not only did they reassure me about the particular plant, but they gave me a good rule of thumb to apply to all berries in my area. Anyway, seconding that they would be the best resource to talk to about how poisonous the plants would be for a kid of your daughter's weight, and what the likely affects and responses would be. It doesn't have to be an emergency to call them.
posted by Yoshimi Battles at 12:09 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've found some relevant Internet pages but they vary from 'foxglove is deadly, remove it now' to 'it's only dangerous if you eat lots of it'.
That is exactly what I would expect the Internet to say, if in fact foxglove is only dangerous if you eat lots of it.
posted by feral_goldfish at 12:16 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yoshimi, what would that rule be, if you don't mind?
posted by Liesl at 12:18 PM on July 2, 2012

I was in MA when my toddler ate about 3 medium-sized red berries. Poison Control said 1) any berries in MA, even "poisonous" ones, would at worst result in vomiting and diarrhea in kids my son's weight, and that the plan of attack would be to manage any dehydration from that and 2) said kid would have to eat more than a handful of any MA berries to produce vomiting/diarrhea.

We have several edible berry bushes in our yard, so the kids are used to eating berries. We also know the hand berry eater's mantra: "White and yellow: kill a fellow. / Purple and blue, good for you. / Red? Maybe good, maybe dead."
posted by Yoshimi Battles at 12:33 PM on July 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

I think it's down to the toddler. Our two-year-old doesn't put things in his mouth at all (well, apart from that one time with the snail), and I feel I can trust him not to eat random stuff in the garden. Which is just as well, because we have foxgloves everywhere.
posted by pipeski at 12:54 PM on July 2, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far. Does anyone have any idea how dangerous it is if a child actually eats it?
posted by Grinder at 1:37 PM on July 2, 2012

from Wikipedia:

The entire plant is toxic (including the roots and seeds), although the leaves of the upper stem are particularly potent, with just a nibble being enough to potentially cause death.[13] Early symptoms of ingestion include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, wild hallucinations, delirium, and severe headache. Depending on the severity of the toxicosis the victim may later suffer irregular and slow pulse, tremors, various cerebral disturbances, especially of a visual nature (unusual colour visions with objects appearing yellowish to green, and blue halos around lights), convulsions, and deadly disturbances of the heart. For a case description, see the paper by Lacassie.[14]

Even with that, I would not remove the plant (or Lily of the Valley). Berries are a different matter, they look like food. I grew up playing among flowers and plants, many toxic, it seems odd to me that anyone would have worried about me eating them.
posted by fifilaru at 2:12 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I definitely wouldn't remove it. My kids are as curious as anything, and when in the vegie garden I encourage them to check out/nibble the basil and beans and things, but I couldn't imagine them just randomly eating a flowering plant off in some part of the garden.

O course, you're the best judge.
posted by wilful at 8:14 PM on July 2, 2012

Best answer: "…with just a nibble being enough to potentially cause death.[13]"

As with all of Wikipedia, it pays to check the references given for the more breathless statements like this. The reference given mentions nothing of the sort, and neither does its reference.

A somewhat more reliable source suggests that the risk is low. A quick skim of medical journals & poisoning reports suggests that in children most cases are related to drinking water from vases containing the flowers, making tea with the flowers or leaves, or kids with pica eating relatively large amounts (~2 grams / 2-3 teaspoons). It's also fairly bitter.

(IANAD, IANA[P]arent)
posted by Pinback at 8:16 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

BTW the link from the Wikipedia article goes to this article, which says nothing about quantities. Think I might have to edit that.
posted by wilful at 8:17 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

The main number for the American Association of Poison Control Centers is 1-800-222-1222. They'll connect you to your local poison control center, and they promise to "answer any poison-related question, no matter how seemingly trivial." They will be thrilled to talk to you about preventing child poisoning.
posted by gingerest at 8:20 PM on July 2, 2012

I read a book on poisonous plants recently Is that Cat Dead: And other questions about poisonous plants (a great read, by the way), which deals with this issue extensively. You shoudl read the FAQ on the author's website and this page.

The general advice given is that plant poisononing is not common, deaths from plant poisoning are extremely rare and poisonous plants are very often planted in public places (like parks!) without incident.
posted by xchmp at 2:03 AM on July 3, 2012

Yoshimi Battles: Not only did they reassure me about the particular plant, but they gave me a good rule of thumb to apply to all berries in my area.
If that rule of thumb wasn't "Assume all berries are poisonous unless assured otherwise by a knowledgeable authority," I'd disregard it as a dangerous myth.

Poisonous berries come in all colors and sizes, as do edible ones. Some especially toxic ones are red or white (nightshade, poison ivy), but then again, most berries are red or white. Some particular berry shape-types are AFAIK always edible, but I don't know enough to say absolutely "Berries shaped like X are always edible", so I won't identify "X".
posted by IAmBroom at 9:35 AM on July 3, 2012

I was thinking of your question yesterday as I puttered and weeded in my garden and I think if it worries you, you could consider heavily pruning it or just removing it from hard-to-monitor spots. Next year, your kid will better be able to understand directions and you'll know their temperament.

Right now, I'm trying to teach my 18-month-old what is and isn't safe to put in her mouth from the garden. It is tough when you have edibles and non-edibles. I was showing her a caterpillar the other day in my hand and she grabbed it and was going to put it in her mouth. (It was brown and curled up -- maybe it looked like chocolate?) I said, "No, no, not in your mouth." She seems to be catching on.

I looked into the poisoning potential of rhubarb plants and decided that it was not enough to remove it from my garden. You'd have to eat quite a bit of the leaves to make yourself sick. Yes, a dog could probably go after it but, really, I'm not worried.
posted by amanda at 3:31 PM on July 3, 2012

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