7 TOXIC SUCCULENTS
by Lynn KirkJun 17, 2022
Be aware. Be advised. Be alert. That’s the warning for folks who have these 7 toxic succulents living alongside their children and pets.
Granted, MOST succulent plants are benign, beneficial, and beautiful. They provide landscape solutions, decorate homes and offices, clean indoor air, serve as a growing hobby, and more! Some are even admired for their medicinal properties, and lo and behold, their tastiness.
But admittedly there are a few succulents that have potential to be hazardous or downright poisonous to people and pets. Those are the ones we’ll deal with here: 7 toxic succulents.
So what’s the problem in simple terms? People, pets, and plants can co-exist, but sometimes curiosity rules. Children, as well as their cats and dogs, just have to explore their surroundings. That typically involves checking out the household plants. Other times pets simply seek plants as nature’s medicine. They inherently know plant chlorophyll can help with digestion, and if they’re indoor pets, your indoor plants might be their only option. Their feeble attempt at feeling better can make them feel a whole lot worse when they feed on these 7 toxic succulents.
That’s why it’s good to know which succulents are deemed potentially poisonous. Here are 7 toxic succulents that can be purchased and enjoyed, but definitely should be out of reach from children and pets.
1. Agave. This native American plant may look like a cactus, but it has ‘leaves’ with sharp, marginal teeth. Its sap is the challenge, though. Not only does contact with sap redden and burn the skin; it can cause serious blisters due to CICD (chemically irritant contact dermatitis). So stay clear of agave sap and its oxalic acid. And by the way, the next time you drink tequila and experience its fiery burn, remember that agave is used in its making!
2. Aloe. Good or ‘bad’ plant? Both! The Arabian native’s sap, stored in thick fleshy leaves, has amazing healing properties. In fact, it’s been used by people around the globe for centuries to treat wounds and burns. Conversely, the aloe plant also contains a chemical called saponin. Though it helps the plant ward off pests, it causes diarrhea in pets when ingested. No wonder: Saponin is an organic substance that’s also used in the manufacturing of soap!
3. Anthurium. A tropical succulent from South American rainforests, the anthurium brings lush beauty into the greenhouse or perhaps your house. Can’t-miss vibrant-red flowers earn the plant its nicknames: flamingo flower and painter’s palette. If consumed, it releases calcium oxalate crystals that literally can pierce the lips, intestinal tract, stomach lining, and everything else they come in contact with. It also can cause stomach upset, heart arrhythmia, labored breathing, and swollen tongue, which is why its other name is dumbcane plant.
4. Elephant’s Ear Kalanchoe. Felt bush. Velvet leaf plant. Napoleon’s hat. Whatever you call this succulent, be assured that it lives up to its name: a big-boy shrub that grows tree-like in size – up to 12 feet in height in the right conditions. Its triangular-shaped, olive-green leaves are elephant-like in size, too, so it makes for an interesting garden addition. Uniqueness comes with a risk, though, because the elephant ear kalanchoe’s stem and leaves contain oxalic acid that tends to burn and swell the mouth, tongue, throat, and esophagus.
5. Euphorbia. Number 5 of the 7 toxic succulents is the euphorbia. Don’t let its white latex-like sap fool you. It may resemble diluted milk, but it’s highly toxic -- poisonous to man and man’s best friend. When ingested, the sap can cause stomach pain and diarrhea, as well as vomiting. This same sap can hurt your eyes, burn your skin, and cause a rash on pets. Soooo, keep euphoria around, but keep it out of reach so stems don’t break and secrete sap. Also wear gloves when cutting, repotting, and propagating!
6. Jade plant. One of the most popular succulent plants, the jade is considered the lucky plant or money plant. Part of the Crassula genus, a jade plant’s plump leaves also tend to be toxic when eaten. Once again, diarrhea and vomiting can occur, and sometimes lethargy and lack of coordination result.
7. Snake plant. Another of the 7 toxic succulents for people and pets is the one known as mother-in-law’s tongue, devil’s tongue, or snake plant (with those monikers, of course it’s noxious!). A member of the family Asparagaceae, this succulent’s cultivars are native to West Africa. Though its toxicity is considered somewhat mild, eating a large amount can swell the tongue and throat. Like the aloe, the snake plant has saponin in its leaves, which is the root cause of its toxicity.
If you have any of these 7 toxic succulents—or want them for your plant collection—don’t despair! Segregation or creative positioning out of reach from little people and pets will keep everyone and everything safer. Log on Succulent Market for other educational blogs, newsletters, and retail updates . . . as well as safe succulent options!
Sources: Succulents Network. World of Succulents.