Lets start off by saying that Poinsettias ARE NOT Poisonous!
Many of us were raised on the belief that poinsettias are toxic and dangerous to children and household pets. It is so generally ingrained in society that the poinsettia often shows up on "poisonous plants lists" with no one bothering to check the facts to determine if the plant actually belongs in this category. Often the family veterinarian will state with complete conviction that poinsettias will kill cats or dogs, though no veterinarian on earth has actually seen a documented case because it can't happen.
So if poinsettia plants are not poisonous why do so many believe they are?
One theory that is fairly well supported is that the myth of poinsettia toxicity began in Hawaii in 1919, when a two year old child of an Army officer was discovered dead under a full grown poinsettia bush, clutching a poinsettia leaf in her hand.This is the only death-by-poinsettia ever reported, and further investigation proved it 100% false! In the early 1970's a professor from Cornell University attempted to track and verify down the details of the incident, knowing as he did that poinsettias are nontoxic. The last living witness to the case stated that there were NO poinsettias involved the incident and that he didn't know how the story got started.
Unfortunately, the mistaken belief that poinsettias are poisonous results in a lot of grief for florists & poinsettia growers. As well parents and pet owners are needlessly worrying about a potential danger that does not even exist. To put it in perspective a 50 pound dog or child could eat the equivalent of between 500 & 600 of the bracts, or drink a pound & a half of the sap, they would still not have reached a toxic dosage, however they would probably suffer from a sore tummy. Considering the bitter taste of the poinsettia, chances are that a child or a pet would immediately spit out a mouthful of poinsettia rather than swallow it.
So, how sure are we about this?
The poinsettia is the most widely tested consumer plant on the retail market today, proving time and time again the myth about the popular holiday plant to be false.
So lets ignore the myth and review the facts.
- Scientific research conducted by Ohio State University has proven the poinsettia to be non-toxic to both humans and pets. All parts of the plant were tested, including the leaves and sap.
- Over the years requests have been made that government enact legislation to
force the poinsettia industry to put toxic warning labels on these
plants. Acting on these requests the
Consumer Products Safety Commission accumulated all relevant literature
and & in 1975 denied the petition, issuing instead a clean bill of
health for the utter safety of poinsettias, citing the complete lack of
any evidence to the contrary.
- A study by Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon
University found that out of 22,793 reported poinsettia exposures there
essentially no toxicity significance of any kind. The study used
national data collected by the American Association of Poison Control
- The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reports that keeping this plant out of the reach of pets to avoid stomach upset is a good idea, however pet owners need not fear the poinsettia and banish it from their homes for fear of a fatal exposure. The American Veterinary Medicine Association of America (AVMA), agrees.
Nonetheless, the rumor persists, spread largely by word-of-mouth. People like to err on the side of safety, which is always good. A survey conducted in 1995 by the Society of American Florists (SAF) concluded that 66% of those polled believed the "toxic poinsettia" myth and that the plant was poisonous if eaten. A previous survey conducted in 1994 on behalf of SAF by Bruskin/Goldring Research discovered that 42 % pf males polled and 57% of females polled also believed the myth, However, in the case of Poinsettia, this concern is completely unfounded. Rest assured, there is no reason to single out this beautiful plant and banish it from your home over the holiday season. The poinsettia makes a wonderful choice when purchasing or sending Christmas flowers for delivery.