One of the most common questions we get around the holidays is: are poinsettias poisonous? The short answer is NO! But how did this common myth populate in the first place?
In 1944, author Harry L. Arnold, MD published a book called Poisonous Plants of Hawaii which, as the name states, lists details about poisonous and dangerous plants found on the island. In one excerpt he states:
“The milky juice and the leaves are poisonous. The two-year-old child of an Army officer at Fort Shafter died from eating a poinsettia leaf in 1919.”
With little other research or knowledge of the plant at the time, this news was alarming to gardeners and thus the myth was born.
There were no fatalities among all poinsettia exposures and 98.9% were accidental in nature, with 93.3% involving children. The majority of exposed patients (96.1%) were not treated in a health care facility and 92.4% did not develop any toxicity related to their exposure to the poinsettia. Most patients do not require any type of therapy and can be treated without referral to a health care facility.
It has been proven time and time again that poinsettias are non-lethal, but the myth still holds strong to this day.
In sum - poinsettias are no more toxic than your average houseplant! While we wouldn't recommend making a meal out of them, if a few leaves are ingested, your biggest worries will be an upset stomach.
Whether you're decorating your own space or gifting this year, feel free to enjoy poinsettias without worry!