Master Gardeners: Plant Safety in Your Garden | Immovable
We’ve read a lot lately about protecting pollinators and the importance of committing to supporting a healthy ecosystem. Bees and butterflies need our help. By purchasing plants that are propagated locally, you can often find out what pesticides, if any, were used in production. Propagating plants yourself, from seeds or cuttings, is a better way to ensure your plants are safe for pollinators, as well as your children and pets. The Xerces company has two helpful documents, “Protecting Pollinators at Home” and “Buying Bee-Friendly Plants” on their website under the Resources menu.
Know the names of your plants
Plants are complex. In addition to water, carbon, and cellulose, there are chemicals in plants that provide us with nutrients or pharmaceuticals — and sometimes discomfort. Plants aren’t always harmless, as anyone who’s had a close encounter with Poison Oak or Thorny Cholla can attest. Sometimes there are toxins that can cause irritation, or worse, when ingested or come into contact with the skin.
Since we all want to relax and enjoy our gardens, I highly recommend knowing the names of your plants. The National Capital Poison Control Center has an illustrated list of poisonous and non-poisonous plants. I was surprised to see that the first plant listed is the apple. What? It turns out that apple seeds contain a substance called amygdalin which, according to Medical News Today, may have a toxic effect. Eating a few by mistake is nothing to worry about, but ingested in large numbers, apple seeds can be toxic. Fortunately, apples are also very nutritious. In summary: in the complexity of a plant’s leaves, bark, seeds or roots, there can be beauty and nourishment and occasional risk.
A Handy UNM Resource
So how carefree do we feel in our gardens? Fortunately, there are excellent sources of information available to learn more about facility security. But often they include many plants that don’t grow in New Mexico. So I turned to the University of New Mexico College of Pharmacy. Their poisonous plants website entry shows some common poisonous plants, such as foxglove and Jimson grass. There is a downloadable brochure on the website listing poisonous plants in our state, along with prevention tips. Print it out and keep it handy. Teach young children not to taste plants without asking first.
If you have pets that roam freely in your yard, the ASPCA has excellent lists of poisonous plants for dogs and cats. Each plant listed is linked to additional information. If you have a cat or dog that loves nibbling on leaves and chewing on sticks, look for this plant so you don’t have to worry anymore. If it turns out there are problems, you can remove the plant, restrict access to it, or replace it with something you wanted to add to the landscape anyway. There are many safe, edible and beautiful plants to choose from. Know your plants, protect your four-legged creatures.
A few garden safety tips:
• Know the names of your plants.
• Do not let children put plant parts in their mouths.
• Remember that animals react differently to plants — if they can eat, that doesn’t mean we can too. And vice versa!
• Store seeds, bulbs and fertilizers safely.
• Hunt down your new plants so you can get them out of harm’s way, if necessary.
Xerces Society/Pollinator Conservation Resource Center: https://