Are Christmas Trees Poisonous?

Christmas trees such as firs, pines, and cedar are mildly poisonousPlants are a great addition to homes and offices, but it’s important to know whether your plants are dangerous to children, pets, or even adults. Some plants contain chemicals such as oxalates, solanine, glycosides, or alkaloid lycorine that may cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, swelling and redness of the mouth, throat, and lips, and trouble breathing. Touching parts of certain plants, especially the sap, may cause various skin irritations. The weight and age of the human or pet involved, and the part and amount of plant eaten determine how severe the reaction to the toxins will be. Although plants may be listed as non-toxic, they can still cause individual allergic reactions. If there is any question after a houseplant has been ingested or touched, immediately call the Poison Control Center 1-800-222-1222.  More poisonous houseplant information and pictures of common plants that are dangerous to children and pets can be found in my book Don’t Feed Me to Your Cat: A Guide to Poisonous Houseplants, sometimes causing drooling in pets and vomiting in children. The good news is that a child or pet would have to eat quite a bit to become sick and people and pets usually don’t like to eat Christmas trees.  The toxicity of the tree may be increased if it has been sprayed with a fire retardant.

Although the oil from Christmas trees can irritate the mouth and skin, the real concern is that if a small child or pet eats only a few needlesLeaves that are slender, narrow, and do not have a leaf blade are called needles., which are almost impossible to digest, the needlesLeaves that are slender, narrow, and do not have a leaf blade are called needles. could puncture or obstruct part of their intestinal tract.

Eating parts of an artificial tree is also dangerous since there can be toxins in the tree material and pieces of the tree can cause intestinal obstructions.

Another thing we tend to forget is the water the tree is sitting in to keep it looking fresh. This water may contain preservatives, pesticides, fertilizerPlants need fertilizer only when they are actively growing. Slow growing plants in low light require very little plant food. Too much fertilizer is worse than not enough. Most plants prefer a water soluble plant food at 1/2 the recommended strength. Plants that are in bloom or dormant should not be fertilized. Houseplant food contains nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). A fertilizer containing these elements in equal proportion is considered a balanced plant food. Nitrogen helps in photosynthesis and encourages the growth of leaves and stems. Potassium and phosphorus also help in photosynthesis and aid in root and flower development. Most fertilizers have trace elements of other minerals that are lacking in the soil but are necessary for good plant growth. Fertilizers have a high salt content. If a plant is not producing new leaves and doesn’t absorb the fertilizer, salts build up in the soil. These salts can burn the roots, discolor the leaves, and cause new growth to be small.s, or some people even put aspirin into it. Cover the water dish so that cats and dogs don’t drink from it and small children don’t play in it.

Stay safe this Christmas, keep pets and small children away from holiday plants and trees!