Contrary to widespread hype, poinsettias are not poisonous

Here are some concerns I encountered last week:

Poinsettias are not poisonous: This is a widespread misconception that just won’t go away, and there is ample scientific evidence demonstrating the plant is safe. Ohio State University, in cooperation with the Society of American Florists, concluded that no toxicity was evident at ingestion levels far exceeding those likely to occur in a home environment.

In fact, the Poisindex information service, the primary resource used by poison control centers, says that a 50-pound child will need to ingest more than 500 poinsettia bracts (colored leaves of the plant) to surpass experimental doses. Yet, even at this high level, no toxicity was demonstrated.

As with all ornamental plants, poinsettias are not intended for human consumption. Individuals with sensitivity toward latex — the milky fluid found in cut poinsettias and other plants — may experience allergic reactions in the form of a rash or irritation. However, the study found the poinsettia to be safe.

In 1992, the poinsettia was included on the list of houseplants helpful in removing pollutants from indoor air. So, not only is it a safe and beautiful addition for your holiday decor, it will help keep your indoor air clean.

Rubber tree losing its leaves: Like some people, this plant is stubborn. It does not like being moved and expresses its displeasure by dropping its leaves. Leave it in one location and it will eventually settle down.

Bitter pecans: They taste best after experiencing a cold snap and dropping from trees. Earlier picking from trees may bring on bitterness. If you’ve never seen a “fresh” pecan, it may shock you. It’s covered by a greenish-brown husk you must remove to expose the familiar pecan. Juices within these husks stain hands, so wear gloves while husking.

Shriveled pecans: A zinc deficiency and water stress through the summer when pecans are filling out brought on the shriveling. To control shriveling, in February, fertilize with zinc chelates and provide ample water when nuts are filling out.

Globe artichokes: This beauty is striking in landscapes with its huge, deeply cut, silvery-green leaves. The artichoke bud is a cluster of overlapping fleshy scales containing the food. As the bush matures, buds become larger. Harvest the bud as scales begin opening, or let them open to become a beautiful deep violet-blue flower.

Winterizing asparagus and globe artichokes: Cut back all top growth to ground level and cover plants with a thick layer of mulch, followed with a thorough watering. These plants will develop more underground growth as they lie under the mulch in preparation for next season’s crop. Early next spring, fertilize as shoots emerge from the ground.

Don’t add lime to lawn: Our soils are loaded with lime, so don’t add any. Liming is an eastern tradition to raise the soil’s pH. We add sulfur to lower our soil pH.

Dropping ocotillo leaves: Ocotillos drop leaves going into dormancy, so it’s a normal function.


Learn the art of pruning from First Choice Tree Service, Leslie Doyle, garden coaches, College of Southern Nevada nursery staff and me at 11 a.m. New Year’s Day. Afterward, hang around to talk with experts and enjoy some goodies. Phone 658-7585 for reservations. There will be a $1 donation to cover refreshments. It’s at the Sweet Tomato Test Garden at 5910 Sheila Ave., off Jones Boulevard, one-half mile south of Cheyenne Avenue.

Linn Mills writes a garden column each Sunday. You can reach him at or call him at 822-7754.

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