Diana was a member of the Royal Horticultural Society. She & her family all love gardening. She enjoys photographing & painting plants too.
Beware! Dangerous Plants Ahead
Be very careful when you are gardening! When touched, lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis), poison ivy, and foxglove (digitalis) can cause immense discomfort and possibly death. Here, you will learn how to recognize some poisonous plants. It's hard to believe how noxious these innocent-looking plants are.
I suffered from severe skin burning from hellebore sap myself, so I feel impelled to preach about poisonous plants. There is no better health warning than showing people what can result from touching innocuous-looking plants. If it saves just one person from pain and suffering, then I have done what I have set out to do.
Lily-of-the-Valley (Convaleria Majalis)
Lily-of-the-Valley is a popular garden plant, known for its sweetly scented flowers in late Spring, and for its ground-covering abilities in shady locations.
It contains about 20 poisonous glycosides, including convalatoxin, convalarin, convalamarin, and saponins.
All parts of the lily of the valley, including the berries, are highly toxic.
Strong headache, nausea, vomiting, slow Irregular heartbeat and pulse, usually accompanied by mental confusion.
Do not make the person vomit. Get medical help immediately because the heart symptoms could be fatal.
Foxglove Also Known As Digitalis
Foxglove Also Known As Digitalis Purpurea
Digitalis or Foxglove is Summer flowering
The bell-shaped flowers may be pink, yellow, white or purple, and some cultivars are speckled. The beautiful flowers of Digitalis or Foxglove are borne on short stems in the first year, and in later years on tall stems which may reach three to four ft. high. It grows well in semi-shade and is self-seeding, so can become invasive in the garden.
Foxglove contains digitoxin - one of several cardiac glycosides in the plant—which is extremely toxic to humans and some animals and can cause death.
Poisonous Parts: All parts of Digitalis are poisonous, including leaves, flowers and seeds.
Symptoms of Poisoning: Major disturbances to the heartbeat and slow pulse, abdominal pains, vomiting, diarrhoea, nausea, visual disturbance and cardiac arrest, which may be fatal.
Treatment of Digitalis Poisoning: In an emergency, assist breathing as needed and get professional medical help.
Poison Ivy Can Cause A Severe Allergic Reaction, But Is Seldom Fatal
Poison ivy is a very common plant in America (although rare in Europe), and most people are allergic to it.
One form of poison ivy grows low to the ground, 6 inches to 30 inches high, usually in groups. The other form is a "hairy" vine that climbs up round a tree. Both have stems with 3 leaves, hence the saying "Leaflets three, let it be."
The poison ivy plant contains an oil called urushiol which bonds to skin when it comes in contact with it. The allergic reaction results in an itchy, red rash. It can arise by touching the plant itself, or touching anything which may have come into contact with the plant, such as clothing, shoes, gardening tools and pets, if they have been contaminated by the poison oil.
Even burning the poison ivy plant may cause an allergic reaction, as the oil from the plant is carried in the smoke.If the smoke then inhaled, this rash will appear on the lining of the lungs, causing extreme pain and possibly fatal respiratory difficulty.
If poison ivy is eaten, damage may be caused to the digestive tract, airway, kidneys or other organs.
In rare cases, poison ivy reactions may require hospitalization.
A rash will usually begin to appear 1 to 2 days after contact with urushiol. The affected area will become red and swollen; a day or so later, small blisters will form, and the rash will become very itchy. The blisters should not be scratched, in case bacteria under the finger nails get into the blisters and cause further infection. After about a week, the blisters will normally start to dry up and the rash will start to go away but in severe cases, where the poison rash covers large parts of the body, it may take much longer.
The skin area contaminated with Urushiol, which bonds to the skin within minutes, should be washed in cold water as soon as possible to wash away the oil. Products that contain solvents such as mineral oil (brand names: Technu, Zanfel) can also be used to remove urushiol from the skin.Because urushiol can remain active for several years , anything which has come into contact with it should also be washed, such as clothes, shoes, tools and camping, sporting, fishing or hunting equipment.
The poison ivy rash it will disappear in 1 to 3 weeks. Itching may be relieved by hydrocortisone cream (brand name: Cortizone-10), calamine lotion, antihistamine tablets (one brand name: Benadryl). or oatmeal baths.
A doctor should be called if you have a fever over 100 F (37.8 C), or the rash covers large areas of your body, or the rash is in your eyes, mouth or on your genital area, or there is pus coming from the blisters or the rash does not get better after a few days.
Photos Showing The Physical Effects Of Poisoning By Poison Ivy--Not a Pretty Sight
Take The Poll Below About Poisonous Plants
It was only when I started doing research about poisonous plants that I realized that quite a few plants that people grow in their garden could make you quite ill, even if they don't actually cause death.
What was your state of knowledge about poisonous plants before you read this page, and has it increased? I assume you knew that poison ivy is poisonous because of its name, but what about the other two innocent-looking plants?
More Poisonous Plants In This Series:
- Iris, Azalea, Hydrangea
- Hellebore, Oleander and Vinca or Periwinkle
- Daffodils, Lantana and Euphorbia
- Lily-of-the-valley, Poison Ivy and Foxglove
- Physalis, Deadly Nightshade and Castor Oil Plant
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: Is lily of the valley poisonous to touch like poison ivy, or only if ingested?
Answer: Lily of the valley is extremely toxic if ingested. It can also cause severe dermatitis if touched.
However, I have it in my garden and have never been affected by touching it, and, indeed, I did not even know until recently that it could be poisonous to touch. So clearly it would seem that some people are more susceptible than others.
Question: Do I just give my hands a good wash having planted foxgloves out in the garden?
Answer: Yes, washing your hands with soap is all you need to do, maybe using a nail brush/scrubbing brush if you have any sap on your hands - that's all I do and I've never had a problem
© 2010 Diana Grant
Have You Ever Suffered From Plant Poisoning?
meadowcroft on June 29, 2020:
Hello, This is my first post. I believe I had a bad reaction to a hydrangea recently or a monkey puzzle tree. I got spiked by potting on a monkey puzzle tree and got a small lumpy rash on my wrist. But i also had a close encounter with a hydrangea that had fell over in its pot. But because the plant had got so large in brushed in my face. I now have a rash on my body. It changes appearance. Sometimes its big lumps under my skin , but the skin isnt red and raw. Then next it will be red and hot spots. This changes often. Any body else had anything like this. If so how did you clear it up, how long did it take. I am on piriton . But doesnt clear it completely even double the dose.
Thanks for reading.
Michael riddell on August 11, 2018:
I recently was propping up some tall foxgloves and since I have abdominal pains nausea and constipation I have seen the dr who diagnosed gastro problem but it dosnt seem to be clearing up any thoughts
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on June 14, 2016:
Poor you. that's interesting, as I've never personally come across someone who got a rash from Lily of the Valley. Thanks for your advice
HappyMamaof3Pups on May 31, 2016:
Still dealing with Lily of the Valley rash / burn & blisters almost two weeks. Sister in nursing confirmed this plant "is evil" worse than poison ivy. Starts off as crazy itch then blisters appear, that you spread by scratching (oils from the plant can stick to clothes/bedding, etc... so WASH EVERYTHING). After two weeks, rash is is almost gone, but I have three bad blisters (two on hands, one on top of the foot). Not much helps - some over the counter meds - just WASH EVERYTHING and DO NOT SCRATCH. ...
Covered up and pulled out all of the plant this past weekend. Beautiful plant but I guess I am one of the sensitive ones that had a poor reaction.
Lorelei Cohen on May 09, 2016:
I could so easily see myself picking the lily flowers to take home with me. I would not have guessed the plant was harmful.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on November 10, 2014:
I've never heard of urushiol. Will have to look it up
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on November 10, 2014:
It's surprising how many things we pick up when scouring the internet, isn't it!
Melody Lassalle from California on November 09, 2014:
I knew about poison ivy but not the others. Thanks for the information!
My sister is a floral designer and sometimes gets in contact with urushiol through the plants/flowers they work with. She has had some really bad reactions to it. A friend has gotten it on her face when they've done control burns nearby.
Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on November 08, 2014:
Wow I sure did not know about Fox Glove and Lily of the Valley. I have grown both. Thanks for this very important information
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on July 04, 2014:
@oznot98: Thanks for the information
oznot98 on July 04, 2014:
Lily of the valley and foxglove are only poisonous when ingested. And schumack trees are not poisonous. Poison sumac is more of a bush or low lying ground cover. And not all people are allergic to poison ivy.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on June 09, 2014:
@laceybeezer: Maybe you didn't lick your fingers after touching poisonous parts, or maybe you touched parts that were not poisonous. An alternative pothesis is that you have nine lives
laceybeezer on June 08, 2014:
I had no idea! I have been very fortunate. We always picked foxglove and lily of the valley when we were kids. Also played around and in schumack trees. I have never experienced poison ivy either. How is this possible?
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on April 05, 2014:
@paulahite: Thanks. I wen there a few minutes after your comment, and it wasn't showing. Maybe I was too hot off the mark?
Paula Hite from Virginia on April 04, 2014:
Great lens on a touchy subject! Its been featured on our G+ page today too!
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on January 31, 2014:
@louise14845: I know that dock leaves are an antidote to stinging nettles, but I don't know many others
louise14845 on January 31, 2014:
Please remember that in nature when you find a poisonous plant in its natural environment you will generally find the ANTIDOTE to the plant close by. Isn't nature wonderful.
Digitalis from foxglove is a highly used cardiac drug in medicine.
burntchestnut on December 13, 2013:
I suffered from poison ivy rash each summer until I finally learned to identify the plant. I knew about lily of the valley and foxglove because I read lots of murder mysteries.
MaggiePowell on December 11, 2013:
With all the dangers nature throws at us, it's a wonder we survive at all.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on December 11, 2013:
@writerkath: Yes they are lovely, just don't touch them and then lick your fingers, and you'll be all right
writerkath on December 10, 2013:
Foxglove grows wild in my field. I'll just enjoy it from afar! :)
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on April 30, 2013:
@Keith J Winter: Yes, it's so pretty - I grow it too
Keith Winter from Spain on April 30, 2013:
Great lens. I didn't know that Lily of the Valley was poisonous. When I was a kid, my grandfather grew loads of it in the garden. It was my grandmother's favourite plant.
chi kung on April 29, 2013:
I sontinue loving Lily of the Valley - never had any issues with it - as far as I know the flowers are not poisonous at all - just eating the leaves
flollyland on March 02, 2013:
I really like this magnificent plant.
goldenrulecomics from New Jersey on October 07, 2012:
I was never particularly sensitive to poison ivy when I was a kid -- so i was always picked to go retrieve the balls that landed near anything that looked like poison ivy!
Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on September 08, 2012:
Wow, very good information. I've had poison ivy rashes; they're awful! I didn't know the other two plants were poisonous.
KidsToyTeaSets LM on June 16, 2012:
Very interesting and useful, thanks to the great photos. I'll have to keep this in mind when picking places outside for a chldrens tea party. I love lots of jungle-y greenery but will be extra cautious now. Thank you for a great resource!
Ilona E from Ohio on May 09, 2012:
I have all these plants in my garden. Poison Ivy did not bother me until recently... I had a small bout of it last year =:(
Chardoo on May 31, 2011:
Bad plants for a garden and especially if you have children---they like to pick the flowers
Lee Hansen from Vermont on April 13, 2011:
My mother suffered terribly one spring when I was a child. Dad burned a large pile of dead brush and she tossed on some poison ivy vines without checking with him as to what they were. During the afternoon she got into the smoke, which carried the toxins to her skin. We have all three in our yard ... and are very cautious.
Rachel Field on April 07, 2011:
So glad to find out about Lily of the Valley before I plant some!!
Ugh! I sat in horrified fascination looking at the Poison Ivy pics.
JJGJJG on December 18, 2010:
The poison ivy pics make me itch, nice lense.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on December 10, 2010:
@myraggededge: Yes, I'm glad, too that we don't have poison ivy in the UK. I was surprised to learn that from you, because I recall a song from my childhood which had the words "Make my bed quickly I have to lie down, poison ivy, poison ivy" or some such! Oh no, it was indeed some such - it was poison apples, not ivy
myraggededge on December 10, 2010:
I love Lily of the Valley and Foxgloves, they are so pretty, yet they require respect. We don't have Poison Ivy in the UK - thank goodness... those pics are horrifying.
happynutritionist on November 19, 2010:
I think I commented a little earlier....better yet, I added your lens as a featured one to Pink Lily of the Valley:-) I think the information is important for my readers to know.
happynutritionist on November 19, 2010:
Very interesting...I never thought of Lily of the Valley as poisonous but never think of ingesting it either...I will lensroll this into my Pink Lily of the Valley lens. I sell the extra plants on eBay most years in the spring as it is a bit rarer than white. Next year should be a good year for that, this year took a break to let the plants spread. They smell wonderful!
Tarra99 on November 11, 2010:
man!...I thought I had bad reactions to poison ivy...ugh...your pics almost made me pass out...my eldest had a really bad run in with it a few years ago where his face swelled up so bad his eyes were almost forced shut...it's horrible...I knew about foxglove but not about lily of the valley and that's my birth flower (May) ...huh......thanks for sharing and hey, thanks for visiting my "Steampunk Jewleyr" lens...I appreciate your visit and comments.
irenemaria from Sweden on November 10, 2010:
I have made a painting with foxglove and roses =)
anonymous on September 18, 2010:
More great information Diana, and again, I didn't realize that Lily of the Valley was poisonous, I definitely have to read more of your lenses. I had planted them a few years back (in a shaded area behind our house), but they took over too quickly so I ripped them all out. I tend to do that with my plants, gardening is not one of my talents LOL - Kathy
Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on September 18, 2010:
Wow, I sure didn't know that Foxglove and Lilly of the Valley were poisonous. I learned something new today and that is always a good thing. Thank you.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on September 13, 2010:
@Gamganny: Until I began my research, I had no idea how many poisonous plants I was growing in my own garden - it's a wonder we all came through the years unscathed!
Gamganny on September 13, 2010:
I didn't know there are some many poisonous plants that we use everyday in our garden. Thanks for the info.
Virginia Allain from Central Florida on September 12, 2010:
I'm highly allergic to poison ivy, so I keep a watchful eye out for it when I'm out walking.
The other two I've grown in my garden. Thanks for the warnings.
Moe Wood from Eastern Ontario on March 10, 2010:
I'm so paranoid about poison ivy, and those pictures have confirmed.