OK, so who got a houseplant for Christmas this year? No? Well, then maybe you are thinking of picking one up in the sales next time you go to the garden centre, DIY store, or even the supermarket?
The plant up at the top there is a cycad Sago Palm, and apparently is on sale all over the damn place as a houseplant because it’s attractive and easy to care for. Unfortunately, it’s also highly palatable to pets and has pretty, bright orange seeds which might also be attractive to children.
‘Unfortunately’, because the cycad Sago Palm is extremely toxic, and there’s an estimated 50-75% chance of death if you (or your cat, dog, or child) eat any part of the plant, the seeds being the most lethal. Fortunately, because I read the Poodle And Dog Blog link on Facebook this morning, I now know this, and so do you.
I don’t normally use this blog as a vehicle for warnings, and I don’t usually post chunks of someone else’s text, but I’m going to this time because a) I think it’s a good warning, and b) I have what feels like flu, and therefore no energy to be creative. So this is from Wikipedia:
“Cycad Sago Palm is extremely poisonous to animals (this includes humans) if ingested. Pets are at particular risk since they seem to find the plant very palatable. Clinical symptoms of ingestion will develop within 12 hours and may include vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, seizures, liver failure, or hepatotoxicity characterized by icterus, cirrhosis, and ascites. The pet may appear bruised, have nose bleeds (epistaxis), melena (blood in the stool), hematochezia (bloody straining), and hemarthrosis (blood in the joints). The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center estimates a fatality rate of 50 to 75 percent when ingestion of the Sago Palm is involved. The incidence of Sago Palm ingestion by pets has risen by over 200% in the last five years. If any quantity of the plant is ingested, a poison control center or doctor should be contacted immediately. Effects of ingestion can include permanent internal damage and death.
All parts of the plant are toxic; however, the seeds contain the highest level of the toxin cycasin.”
Admittedly, there are many, many toxic houseplants, and there are many, many toxic garden plants. However, plants which are equally toxic – eg the Yew and the Laburnham – do not seem to be so palatable, and don’t get eaten so often. Also, the aril of the yew (the ‘berry’), is pretty much the only part of the tree which is not poisonous, so although they are bright and attractive and taste sweet they won’t actually kill your dogs or your children*.
Unlike these things.
The cycad Sago Palm appears to be very tasty and is eaten quite often by pets. This is a quote from the Veterinary Information Network (VIN) (it’s American, so they use ‘veterinarian’ not ‘veterinary surgeon’ but it’s the same thing):
“I swear, it seems to me that dogs are attracted to sago palms. In the cases of toxicity I see (several each year), it seems to be the only plant in the yard the dogs chew on. … I think we need to be more proactive in trying to warn owners they should not have these plants at all.”
If you follow the link, you’ll see there’s one particularly sad and cringe-making story there about an unsuspecting owner who unwittingly killed his dog by playing a game of fetch with the seed pods. How bloody awful for them both.
In case those of you here in the UK are thinking that we don’t need to worry because we don’t have them here – yes we do. I quickly found them for sale at a nursery in Norfolk where they state that they were ‘probably the food of dinosaurs’. Being highly concerned that this might give people the false impression that these palms are harmless – or even edible, God help us – I sent them an email with the appropriate information link, and the Managing Director got back to me very quickly and said they would amend the website, alerting customers to the danger, bless his cotton socks.
It’s so nice when people do actually listen and do something. Well done, that man!
I didn’t used to worry too much about house and garden plants, although I took out all the Monk’s Hood and Laburnham when we moved in. But Ranger does chew on plants and I’ve had to chase him off my day lilies more than once.
So you can bet your bottom currency note of your choice that I will not be buying one of these things.
* Or so I’ve read. I haven’t actually tried them, and I wouldn’t advise anyone to do so. Just for the record.