A luscious garden in your backyard is generally a welcome sanctuary in a busy world. The majority of people, however, are unaware as to how many of their favourite plants, though seemingly innocent, are actually quite poisonous.

Fortunately for us, most plants are only potentially harmful if you eat them and not all of them are lethal. While this fact doesn’t pose a problem to most discerning adults, a brightly coloured berry or flower can be highly attractive to both young children and pets alike, increasing the danger and risk to their young lives.

Here are a few of the common poisonous plants found in South African gardens:

1. Oleander

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This fragrant flowering shrub is extremely hardy and drought tolerant.  Although beautiful to behold all the parts of this plant are extremely poisonous, even lethal. If you have small children or pets at home, this plant is probably best removed from your garden.

2. Syringa 

Photo Credit: Anna Anichkova 

Children and dogs alike seem to love the ripe berries of this tree, however, they can make humans and animal violently ill because they contain a high concentration of meliatoxins.

3. Rhubarb

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This common food may come as a surprise. While many people enjoy eating the stems of this plant in a variety of desserts, eating the rhubarb leaves can actually be fatal. Ingesting a large amount of the leaves will affect your mouth and throat and can lead to convulsions, internal bleeding and death.

4. Cycads

Photo Credit: Wikipedia 

Cycad seed cones resemble large pineapples and while a dedicated gardener is unlikely to consume these valuable seeds, young children are not as discerning.  The ripe cones expose large brightly coloured seeds which are highly toxic.

5. Elephants ear

Photo Credit: Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

The sap and root stock of this plant are poisonous. If the sap gets into the eyes they will sting and burn for a few hours. The plant has a particularly unpleasant taste which usually deters children from consuming enough to be dangerous.

6. Delicious Monster


While beautifully adorned on clothing as prints, and inside homes, this plant is common both in the garden and as an indoor plant. Dogs seem to have a particular attraction to it.  Unfortunately, every part of this plant is poisonous and chewing on it will aggravate the mouth making it difficult to swallow.

7. Dieffenbachia

Photo Credit: Karen K Krietemeye via Pinterest 

This plant is another indoor and outdoor favourite. Dieffenbachia is more commonly known as Dumb Cane for the sap from the leaves and stem which can cause the tongue of the victim to swell so much that they are not able to speak!

So how can we ensure the safety of those we love? With the exception of Oleander, education, not elimination, is usually the best way to deal with poisonous plants. Removing all of the toxic plants from your garden would create a safe environment at home (and some very bare garden beds), however, it isn’t the best solution.  Instead, educate your children to refrain from putting berries, flowers or leaves into their mouths.  By educating them you are ensuring their safety when out and about, even when they are not under your supervision.

Andre Ter Moshuizen Estate Agent

082 602 1367 |

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