The dangers of the garden for children

A couple of days ago, I went a bit ballistic buying new flower seeds, to stock my new beds that I will dig this year. One on the list was the Caster Oil Plant or Ricinus communis, known for it’s speedy growth, height and spectacular foliage, which I thought would look great in my mediterranean garden area.



When the seeds arrived, then were marked very clearly with POISON! I was a bit shocked as I had no idea the plant was toxic. In fact after a bit of research I discovered it is the seeds which are potentially deadly, with one or two swallowed giving fatal effect. You can imagine how nerve wracking this would be with a toddler around, who’s inclined to pop things into his mouth at random. The plant also projectile shoots it’s seeds everywhere in late summer! so I discretely popped them in the bin, and made a mental note for it to be something to revisit… in about 10 years.

Shame, I loved that foliage, but as a mother, my children come first of course. It’s hard compromising as a gardener with children, only the other day my son was kicking a ball all over the spring bulbs I had lovingly chosen to border the lawn under the trees. This is really their lawn area, so I couldn’t say much, apart from, perhaps if you could just not kick the ball near the daffs please!

5 thoughts on “The dangers of the garden for children

  1. If I’m right the poison Ricin is made from the seeds or beans of this plant.. the guy murdered by being jabbed with an umberella was a victim of ricin poisoning. Not too good a plant if you have pets too but as you say it’s a pity as it is very attractive,

  2. Datura is another one to be avoided and bears’ britches. Also some euphorbias (though it didn’t stop my dad).

    Almost the day my son was born my lovely mother-in-law handed me a list of poisonous garden plants that came free with one of her magazines (the list, not the plants; that would be an amazing magazine cover gift — FREE this month: all the plants that will harm your grandchildren). She had clearly kept it for years and years, waiting for a grandchild-garden-loving-daughter-in-law conjunction and I was very touched to receive it.

    The RHS has a useful and relevant list here.

    • I’m not sure what Datura is but I’ll look it up. There are many plants that are not safe if you eat the leaves (such as rhubarb) or cut the stem and touch the sap (Euphorbia as you mentioned) It hasn’t stopped me growing them as non of my children have been interested in trying to eat the leaves, although it’s something about berries and seeds that seem more appealing, like sweets I guess. My mum is often pointing out things I shouldn’t grow, but with caution I think it’s ok, if you plant at the back of the border out of sight :0)

      • I think Datura is called brugmansia these days? It has lovely tropical leaves and dramatic white trumpet flowers. I think you’re right about the berries and seeds being like sweets. We were taught from a very early age to identify a handful of plants that we must not touch. As well as euphorbia my father saw fit to cultivate giant hogweed which also has irritant sap. What a character.

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