Friday, November 30, 2012

Eat This Not That --Poisonous Plants For People and Pets

Holiday Hazards?  If you've pulled this blog up because Uncle Bo just ate the Amaryllis, call Poison Control immediately.  At 1-800-222-1222, calls are taken 24 hours, 7 days per week by trained nurses, pharmacists or doctors. 

When my oldest daughter was in elementary school, fine dining always came with some apprehension. We learned to seat her  back facing towards rest of the world while we pretended not to notice the salad deliberately stuck to her nose.  It was (and is) always interesting...

Once a plate came with an allium tucked next to the chicken nuggets.  The stunned waiter's eyes nearly popped from his head as our girl scooped the bloom off the plate and swallowed it with a satisfied "pop."  She also drank perfume once.  After calling the above number we determined she'd be okay. Still, her breath smelled quite nice. 

Before heading out to the flower garden to gather supper for the family it's good to know in advance if the plant is edible, on the bellyache list -- or worse.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Most plants toxic to humans and livestock are also poisonous for the family pet.  The Michigan State University Extension Service publishes an extensive list of dangerous plants and parts. 

The list is long and some "potentially lethal" plants are unexpected and fairly common:
  • Apple seeds--In large quantities can cause severe symptoms such as abdominal pain, vomiting, and worse.
  • Bleeding Heart--potentially lethal in large quantities.
  • Boxwood--Tummy troubles
  • Not for salad use!
  • Daffodil/Crocus/Tulips--Entire plant, mainly the bulbs, potentially lethal.
  • Hydrangea--Flowers and leaves, abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea
  • Snow On the Mountain -- Itchy dermatitis caused by contact with the milky sap.
Keep blood and bone meal, insecticides and fertilizer away from pets. 

Don't assume that pretty holiday plants are exempt from the danger list:
  • Christmas Rose/Hellebores -- Stomache upset and nervous/heart conditions.
  • Holly -- The leaves and berries can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Poinsettia --Sap is a skin irritant, only one reported death in 1919. 

Still,  before running to the yard and ripping up half the flower bed, rest assured that the children and Ralph the dog have coexisted peaceably for years, with nearly the entire list above--and narry a belly ache.  Casey survived her allium appetizer.  Most four legged creatures are naturally avoidant of toxic plants and blooms.  Not that Ralph is discerning about what he eats from the yard, by any means.

Best practice?  Get salad fixings from the market and table arrangements from the yard.

As for those squirrels who dig up my carefully placed daffodil bulbs--pass the Pepto Bismol buddies!

More Articles of Interest:

To Hellebores and Back

Hey! Look What Survived the Winter in My Garden?

Perpetual Poinsettia


Friday, November 9, 2012

Frogs on the Windowsill

Who'd have guessed  that the scaly little guys were such positive harbingers of  a healthy environment.  Frogs and toads are a signal that the ecology of an area is healthy and balanced--so the recent return of these chubby little amphibians to our yard was a welcome event. Their delicate environmental sensitivities require that their habitat be chemical and pollutant free and nearly exactly as mother nature intended. 

The marshy Rouge floodplain which borders our home has long been pummeled with pollutants. When the local tiny toad population exploded, it was a hopeful sign that the watershed was bounding back.  What was unexpected was where they chose to thrive -- in basement window wells. 

Our sills have become frog condominiums. It's speculated that mama and papa frog, whilst hopping along one day landed on the wide grates and found themselves hurling downward to a soft landing on the leaves that never quite get cleared out each fall.  A plentiful supply of bugs and unprecedented protection from predators caused a population explosion.  Attempts to free the squirmy creatures were largely unsuccessful as they scurry into tiny concrete caves.

Still they spend most mornings trying to escape on their own.  On the rare occasion when I was able to snag one for freedom, a replacement appeared overnight.  A few others ended up in a friend's pond as part of the forced relocation program.  Eventually we gave up and let them be, reasoning that at least they were safe from raccoons, car tires and other such predators.

It's impossible to get an accurate census.  Some are always hiding, often in plain sight. Babies are so tiny they're indistinguishable from the environs, 'Specially now they've donned their muddy winter coats.

They're certainly entertaining.  As cold weather descends, our resident amphibians remain undeterred.  From the treadmill each morning, the show in the window is far more entertaining than the morning news.  Scrambling up and over each other, pressing their grinning faces against the glass, these delicate creatures, eyeballs popping. wrestle each other backwards for hours. 

Morning sprinkler showers really get them going. 
At night, when the air is warm and the windows ajar, the sound of soft croaks punctuated with an occasional deep bullfrog rasp brings back memories of childish summers at the lake.

 Let the music begin!

Welcome back little friends. 

There's always a spare window womb. 

More Articles of Interest:

New USDA Planting Zones -- The Blog Formerly Known as Zone Five and a Half

 Winter Weeds and Good Deeds -- How Climate Warming Affects Plant Survival