Tag: toxic

  • How to be Sure Your Plants are Non-Toxic Before Your Pet Takes a Bite

    February 29, 2012
    Chomped African Violet

    Kitty-Chomped & Pup-Abandoned African Violet

    My home used to be a jungle of houseplants, but with pets like mine they don’t stand a chance anymore. I scaled back what I grow indoors after my cat nearly chomped my bonsai to death years ago. I also stopped bringing in bouquets because he demolishes — and later barfs — those as well. So, we’re down to a few succulents, that bonsai placed well out of reach, a couple of begonias, and a couple of African violets.

    Well, we had a couple of African Violets. Now, we barely have one.

    Turns out kitty has developed a palate for these crunchy, fuzzy plants. I realized this when found one of them chewed to a mere nub the other day. He had also yanked a number of stems off the nearby Christmas cactus.

    And to top it all off, he’s taught the puppy that plants are fun to play with. So, soon after he’d mangled the poor violet into submission, dropping it onto the floor after his snack, the pup picked up his leavings and played solo catch with the nearly destroyed little plant nubbin.

    Chewed Plastic Pot

    Pup-Mangled Plastic Violet Pot

    Then, after abandoning the tortured violet on a nearby rug where its soil embedded into the just-cleaned carpet, she picked up the plastic chew toy in which it had been encased. And, she chomped and tore that sucker into submission.

    Yum. Yum. Glad that pot was a cheap one.

    After I composted the poor plant to put it out of its misery and recycled the remains of the plastic pot, I figured this was a good reminder to check the ASPCA’s toxic and non-toxic plant list. This searchable list can help you avoid planting something  (indoors or outdoors) that might make puss, pup or even pony get sick.

    Since my cat isn’t dead yet, I assumed that the African Violet is non-toxic. And, the ASPCA’s site helped me verify that. (You never know when some long-term lingering liver issue might crop up weeks or months later.)

    So, yes, now I’m down to a couple of succulents, a jade, a couple of begonias, an out-of-reach bonsai, one semi-mangled Christmas cactus and a lonely African Violet that’s likely the next plant on bad kitty’s menu.

    If he keeps this up, he may end up getting introduced to the compost pile right along with the plants he kills.

  • What Not to Eat: Poison Hemlock

    May 26, 2010

    Earlier this month local news outlets began reporting that a woman in nearby Tacoma, Washington may have died from ingesting poison hemlock. The tale being told is she harvested it to eat – thinking it was actually something else. A wild carrot perhaps? Regardless, it was a deadly mistake nobody else should have to repeat if we work together to educate ourselves about these pest plants and be sure to eradicate them in our own gardens and communities.

    Poison Hemlock Flower and Foliage on Phinney Ridge

    Poison Hemlock Flower and Foliage on Phinney Ridge

    Oh, and yes, this is that same toxic plant that Socrates ingested when sentenced to death. And, yes, it’s not a nice way to go. The toxins, which exist in all parts of this plant, attack the nervous system creating a range of scary, life-threatening reactions ultimately potentially causing death.

    As more and more of us are growing more and more of our own food, it becomes ever more critical we stay on alert for noxious, toxic weeds in our midst. Hemlock is a weed in our area, and frankly, it’s a really pretty plant. It grows rapidly, easily reaching 8′ tall in the spring and covered with lovely carrot-family flowers that are easily mistaken for lovely Queen Anne’s Lace. But, don’t be fooled – this stuff can kill you. And, it must be eradicated – now! Why now? Well, for the most part, poison hemlock is just now in full bloom. And what follows blooms? Seed pods that get carried rapidly to new locations where they seed and spread this nasty weed to new locations.


    Purple streaking on Conium maculatum lower stalks

    Purple streaking on Conium maculatum lower stalks

    As of the writing of this article, Poison Hemlock is a class-C noxious weed (or non-regulate weed, depending on where you read) in King County, Washington and a class-B weed in Washington State. It does not appear to be on the USDA Federal Noxious Weed list. Essentially this means the regulating committees recommend removing it, but you aren’t going to get in trouble for having it on site – unless of course you or someone else eats it from your property. Truly, the best thing to do is get rid of it. Dig it out. Pick off and carefully destroy any seeds. Be safe.

    Not sure how to identify this plant? First, look for a tall, lacy formed perennial. Next, look for multiple flat, panicles of white flowers all over the plant. Take a sniff  (if you dare) — does it smell musty? Look at the base of the plant or at the stems — are they purple or have purplish streaking? Have you cut any of the stems? Do they appear hollow? If you answered yes to any of these questions, definitely don’t take a bite. You shouldn’t need your nervous system to go haywire or your heart to stop beating to convince you it is time to take out this weed. Instead, do the right thing – eradicate it before it proliferates any further in your garden or your neighborhood.

    For additional assistance identifying and understanding what makes a weed noxious, visit any of the weed list sites linked in earlier portions of this article. For additional help clarifying if your pretty, white-flowered, lacy-foliaged perennial is or isn’t Conium maculatum (aka poison hemlock), refer to the King County Noxious Weed page here.

    And, once again, a reminder from one who grows a lot of her own food. Never eat anything you aren’t 100% certain is edible. Whether it’s a pretty flower, a lovely leaf or a fluffy fungi — be sure. Or you may be dead.

    (And one final note: I did see this plant growing near a design client’s garden. I alerted my client who will be working with her neighbor to eradicate this weed asap. She was quite thankful for my eye toward her safety, especially since her two year old is going through the “every-plant-goes-in-the-mouth” phase of life.)

  • Paul Tukey to Host a Special Screening of A Chemical Reaction in Seattle Area

    February 08, 2010

    We hear a lot about lawns these days. I’ve reported on initiatives in Washington to remove phosphorus from lawn fertilizers. I’ve shared information suggesting that lawns may actually adding to global warming. And, of course, I’ve also offered ways to remove your lawn with minimal effort. Today, I’m excited to report that Paul Tukey, author of The Organic Lawn Care Manual and founder of Safelawns.org will be coming to the Seattle area later this month for a COOL-sponsored airing of his documentary film, A Chemical Reaction.

    The trailer follows. After watching it, read on for event location and ticket purchase details.

    A Chemical Reaction provides an insightful and scientific look at the various concerns mounting around lawn chemicals. It follows the studies and Supreme Court case that eventually lead to the banning of various lawn pesticides and herbicides in one town, then several municipalities and eventually the entire Provence of Quebec. (Updated Feb. 8, 2010: And, this just in: weed ‘n feed fertilizers have just been banned throughout all of Canada! Read more here.)

    Paul Tukey, keynote speaker for this special event,  is uniquely qualified to speak on the subject of lawns and lawn chemical reactions. Not only has he cared for lawns for many years, but he himself succumbed to lawn chemical toxins and became seriously ill. This lead him to become an outspoken advocate for alternative lawn care programs.

    Please join us later this month at Lake Washington Technical College where you will have an opportunity to meet Paul, enjoy a screening of his film,and meet with local industry to learn and discuss more with local industry professionals on this subject. All proceeds from this event will benefit safelawns.org.

    When: Saturday, February, 20, 2010 from 2pm-6pm

    Where: Lake Washington Technical College Auditorium in Kirkland, WA (directions here)

    Tickets: $10 in advance via brownpapertickets.com here; $15 at the door

    (Garden Mentors inc is a member of COOL, the group sponsoring this event, and Garden Mentors has donated sponsorship funds for this event. However, Garden Mentors has received no compensation to promote this event, film, book or any other related information.)