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6 Poisonous Common Houseplants

Please do not get rid of them! We’ve been living with poisonous houseplants throughout our life time. Not knowing this is one the reasons why these plants remain as common houseplants. But with the internet, most of us are learning about the presence of these poisonous common houseplants to the detriment of the plants. Most of the toxicity reports you find on the internet are often fake news or quack science. For example: the ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) are reported to be carcinogenic which is totally untrue. With proper care and caution these poisonous common houseplants poses no danger to anyone in our household. Almost all plants have a tendency to be toxic to humans in one way or another. Even, the seeds of the apple fruit contains enough toxins to be fatal. Below is a list of the most common poisonous houseplants in the Philippines. In no particular order:

Mother of Millions (Bryophyllum daigremontianum)

plantlets arranged along the leaf edge of mother of millions
Mother of millions leaf up close. These individual plantlets break off and grows as a new plant.

A common succulent known for it’s vegetative propagation via plantlets that forms at the edges of it’s leaves. In parts of the world it’s a big problem for cattle farmers because cattle can sometimes eat its leaves and cattle dies as a result. All parts of the plants contains the toxic chemical daigremontianin.

Aside from being toxic mother of millions can be extremely invasive outside of its natural range.

Invasive Mother of Millions
Mother of millions invading all the pots in this school garden.

Budda Belly Plant (Jatropha podagrica)

buddah belly plant with flowers
The buddah belly plant. Its coral shaped flowers are a thing of beauty.

All parts of this plant, specially the seeds is toxic due to the presence of curcin. It’s quite a common potted houseplant because it’s hardy and can survive neglect. It’s part of the Euphorbiaceae family or Euphorbias. Most members of this family are known for its white, milky sap that can be an irritant and at worst, a poison.

Euphorbia (Euphorbia lactea)

It looks like a cactus but it’s not a cactus.

Euphobia lactea is a popular succulent plant. It has spines and has a triagular or rhobic cross section.

My wife is going to kill me for this but in the name of safety I have to tell you about the time they got poisoned by this plant. We were classmates back in high school. She, along with her friends decided to cook with this plant because they read that the plant can be edible. They ate what they concocted and ended up being poisoned the next day. One of her friends is able to make it to school but her whole face, eyes, nose, lips became swollen because of the poison from this plant.

Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia seguine)

Dieffenbachia seguine growing in the wild.
Dieffenbachia seguine growing unattended in a grassy area. Its tolerance to shade makes it a popular indoor plant.

Another common houseplant. It has large green leaves with white spots near the middle. It used to be more common a couple of decades ago. It doesn’t contain toxic chemicals but can be considered dangerous because of the presence of raphides in its tissues. Raphides are calcium oxalic crystals that can be a major irritant. Chewing the leaves of the plants can cause a number of unpleasant symptoms, including intense numbing, oral irritation, excessive drooling, and localized swelling.

Desert Rose (Adenium obesum)

A potted desert rose with an open flower.
A potted desert rose with an open flower.

This is a popular succulent because it survives in xeric watering regime but has no issue being wet during the rainy season. It’s easy to grow and propagate and produces pretty pink flowers all throughout the year.

Its sap contains cardiac glycosides. In Africa its sap has long been used to poison arrows to bring down large game.

ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)

ZZ plant showing it?s shinny dark green pinnate leaves.
We had this ZZ plant since 2013

ZZ plant is a popular house plant native to east Africa. It is very easy to grow and propagate and requires very little maintenance. Because it can survive xeric and low light conditions it can be grown indoors.

This plant used to be very common in our town specially schools because it can survive the dark school corridors with very little watering. Because of the internet hysteria back in 2010 describing the plant as extremely poisonous the plant has lost its popularity and are how very rarely seen in public settings. Reports of the plant being extremely poisonous even cancer causing are exaggerated claims. The plant comes from a plant family with known poisonous family members but the plant has been used for medicinal purposed in its native Africa for thousands of years.


Houseplants; Poisonous ≠ removal

If you have any questions please leave a comment below. As always good luck and happy growing!