Don’t eat the mistletoe and other holiday plant advice from UF expert

It's okay to kiss under the mistletoe.

It’s okay to kiss under the mistletoe.

Those plants you bought to beautify your home during the holidays may look lovely, but they can pose dangers to your pets and children, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences expert says.

Wendy Wilber, statewide master gardener coordinator for UF/IFAS Extension, warns of four types of holiday plants that could bring peril to your dog, cat or small child, if they eat parts of them:

  • Poinsettia: These are not toxic, but they can be an irritant, if consumed. Symptoms include a mouth rash and upset stomach in children or pets who eat too many leaves or bracts. The milky sap in the plant can irritate the skin. Pets and kids would be attracted by the colorful foliage.
  • Holly berries: These cause vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and drowsiness if a child eats as few as two berries. Most of the time, the berries fall off a decoration and onto the floor, and that is where a child or pet might find the red berries and eat them.
  • Mistletoe: All parts of the plant are toxic if consumed. The white berries seem to be the most attractive to kids or pets. Consumption of mistletoe can cause blurred vision, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, changes in blood pressure and death. Wilber urges you to seek medical attention immediately if someone consumes parts of mistletoe.
  • Amaryllis: The bulb has the toxin Lycorine in it. One would have to eat a lot of bulbs to become sick from it. “But having been the owner of a Labrador retriever, I know these things are possible,” Wilber said. “So amaryllis is more of a concern for pet owners.” For the dogs or cats who eat a lot of bulbs, one would see diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. She urges you to contact your veterinarian immediately.

Wilber’s advice is simple.

“Keep holiday decorations out of reach, and make sure no pieces fall on the floor,” she said. “Or skip mistletoe and holly until the kids are a little older.”

For information about keeping your children and pets safe from the potential perils of holiday plants, go to: http://bit.ly/1TnyoyD.

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