Poisonous Plants: Lily-of-the-Valley, Poison Ivy, and Foxglove (Digitalis)

Updated on May 17, 2019
Gloriousconfusion profile image

Diana was a Member of the Royal Horticultural Society. She & her family all love gardening. She enjoys photographing & painting plants too.

Danger! Lily-of-the-Valley, Foxglove, And Poison Ivy Are All Poisonous Plants

Be very careful when you are gardening!

Here you will learn how to recognize some poisonous plants. It's hard to believe how noxious these innocent-looking plants are. Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis), Poison Ivy, and Foxglove (Digitalis) can cause immense discomfort and possibly death.



Here you will not only see what the plants look like, so that you can identify them, but there are also some photographs of precisely how badly skin can be affected by poisonous ivy. They are a bit lurid, but you can just skim over them if you don't like to look at nasty skin allergy pictures

As I have myself suffered from severe skin burning from hellebore sap, I feel impelled to preach about poisonous plants, and there is no better health warning than showing people what can result from touching innocuous-looking plants. So, no apologies—if it saves just one person from pain and suffering, then I have done what I have set out to do.


Poisonous Plant: Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)
Poisonous Plant: Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) | Source

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.

Poisonous Parts:

All parts of the lily of the valley, including the berries, are highly toxic.


Strong headache, nausea, vomiting, slow Irregular heart beat 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

Digitalis Purpurea
Digitalis Purpurea | Source

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 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.

Medical Use: Digitalis may be used as medication for heart failure, causing the heart to beat more strongly.

Poison Ivy

poisonous plant poison ivy
poisonous plant poison ivy | Source

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:

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.

Look Away Now

If you don't want to see horrible pictures of the effects of poisoning allergy by poison ivy.

Photos Showing The Physical Effects Of Poisoning By Poison Ivy--Not A Pretty Sight

Click thumbnail to view full-size
photo: poison-ivy.org  "Burns" on fingers from contact with poison ivy (this is very similar to the burns I had on my hands from contact with hellebore sap....but mine were worse!photo: poison-ivy.org  Allergic reaction to poison ivy after skin contact on back of legs and Allergic reaction - blisters from contact with poison ivypoison-ivy.org  Huge blisters on arm from contact with poison ivy  and Skin on arm drying out as large blisters subsided
photo: poison-ivy.org  "Burns" on fingers from contact with poison ivy (this is very similar to the burns I had on my hands from contact with hellebore sap....but mine were worse!
photo: poison-ivy.org "Burns" on fingers from contact with poison ivy (this is very similar to the burns I had on my hands from contact with hellebore sap....but mine were worse! | Source
photo: poison-ivy.org  Allergic reaction to poison ivy after skin contact on back of legs and Allergic reaction - blisters from contact with poison ivy
photo: poison-ivy.org Allergic reaction to poison ivy after skin contact on back of legs and Allergic reaction - blisters from contact with poison ivy
poison-ivy.org  Huge blisters on arm from contact with poison ivy  and Skin on arm drying out as large blisters subsided
poison-ivy.org Huge blisters on arm from contact with poison ivy and Skin on arm drying out as large blisters subsided

With Poisoning, The Most Important Thing Is To Get Medical Help Immediately

This may help to limit the symptoms.

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?

Did You Already Know That Lily-of-the-Valley And Foxglove Are Poisonous?

See results

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

  • Do I just give my hands a good wash having planted foxgloves out in the garden?

    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

  • Is lily of the valley poisonous to touch like poison ivy, or only if ingested?

    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.

Have You Ever Suffered From Plant Poisoning?

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    • profile image

      Michael riddell 

      20 months ago

      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

    • Gloriousconfusion profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      3 years ago from United Kingdom

      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

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      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.


    • profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      3 years ago

      I could so easily see myself picking the lily flowers to take home with me. I would not have guessed the plant was harmful.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      5 years ago from United Kingdom

      I've never heard of urushiol. Will have to look it up

    • Gloriousconfusion profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      5 years ago from United Kingdom

      It's surprising how many things we pick up when scouring the internet, isn't it!

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image

      Melody Lassalle 

      5 years ago from California

      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.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      5 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Wow I sure did not know about Fox Glove and Lily of the Valley. I have grown both. Thanks for this very important information

    • Gloriousconfusion profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      5 years ago from United Kingdom

      @oznot98: Thanks for the information

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      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.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      5 years ago from United Kingdom

      @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

    • paulahite profile image

      Paula Hite 

      6 years ago from Virginia

      Great lens on a touchy subject! Its been featured on our G+ page today too!


    • profile image


      5 years ago

      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?

    • Gloriousconfusion profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      @paulahite: Thanks. I wen there a few minutes after your comment, and it wasn't showing. Maybe I was too hot off the mark?

    • Gloriousconfusion profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      @louise14845: I know that dock leaves are an antidote to stinging nettles, but I don't know many others

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      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.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      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.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      With all the dangers nature throws at us, it's a wonder we survive at all.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      @writerkath: Yes they are lovely, just don't touch them and then lick your fingers, and you'll be all right

    • writerkath profile image


      6 years ago

      Foxglove grows wild in my field. I'll just enjoy it from afar! :)

    • Gloriousconfusion profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      @Keith J Winter: Yes, it's so pretty - I grow it too

    • Keith J Winter profile image

      Keith Winter 

      6 years ago from Spain

      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 profile image

      chi kung 

      6 years ago

      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

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I really like this magnificent plant.

    • goldenrulecomics profile image


      7 years ago from New Jersey

      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!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      7 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      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 profile image

      KidsToyTeaSets LM 

      7 years ago

      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!

    • Ilonagarden profile image

      Ilona E 

      7 years ago from Ohio

      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 =:(

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Bad plants for a garden and especially if you have children---they like to pick the flowers

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 

      8 years ago from Vermont

      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 profile image

      Rachel Field 

      9 years ago

      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 profile image


      9 years ago

      The poison ivy pics make me itch, nice lense.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      9 years ago from United Kingdom

      @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

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      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.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      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.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      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!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      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.

    • mariaamoroso profile image


      9 years ago from Sweden

      I have made a painting with foxglove and roses =)

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      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

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      9 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      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.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      9 years ago from United Kingdom

      @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 profile image


      9 years ago

      I didn't know there are some many poisonous plants that we use everyday in our garden. Thanks for the info.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      9 years ago from Central Florida

      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.

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 

      10 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      I'm so paranoid about poison ivy, and those pictures have confirmed.


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