Review - Lesley Ottey: Poisonous Plants in the Garden
The first thing Lesley said to us was to make a note of the 0800 POISON (0800-764766) telephone
number. Keep it beside your phone or inside your bathroom cabinet for emergencies; – it is a
continuous day and night service.
Lesley became aware of the toxicity of plants well before she had her children, so was fully prepared
to put barriers in place when her two “grazing” kids discovered the garden! An electric fence was
installed to repel them from the poisonous and dangerous plants.
Lesley brought in some photos of poisonous plants: foxgloves, green potatoes, rhododendrons, swan
plants, euphorbia, ivy to name a few. Foxgloves (digitalis) were the favoured choice of plant for
Edwardian wives for killing off their husbands! Some tramplers have learned the hard way, that the
adage “if one sees a native bird eat berries, the berries are safe for humans” is a myth. If you are
unsure, don’t eat it.
Lesley attended a wedding in the UK at which the fish pond was festooned with floating hellebore
flowers. Gradually, the pond’s fish floated to the surface too! For humans, the hellebore can be a skin
irritant, as can the euphorbia. If any plant has a sticky white sap, it usually reacts to sunlight and is
dangerous to human skin.
There is a risk of seizure to cats if they mistake the pollen-dusted leaves of narcissus for grass.
Lesley mentioned that the berries of the lily-of-the-valley are poisonous; but, thankfully, here in NZ
we do not have the insects which pollinate them.
Our thanks to Lesley for another informative talk.