What could be prettier than an English garden? The British are renowned the world over for their love of landscaping, especially their fulsome beds of flowering shrubs and perennials. Alas, a surprising number of these beauties are poisonous as well as pretty. So if you plan on visiting or relocating to England you will want to know which flora to avoid. Especially if you have pets!
Mother Nature has provided plants with any number of clever ways to sicken you, from a mere touch to ingesting various parts. Since you want your doggie or moggie to be safe outdoors, it is important to know what’s what when it comes to potentially dangerous English plants. Knowing which are toxic doesn’t mean you should automatically cross them off your own garden shopping list, only that you should take extra precautions, particularly if your pet has a habit of interacting with plants.
Native plants can also pose a threat
If you have a dog you will surely want to spend hours doing a walkabout around the English countryside. That means you’ll want to learn the rules of the road for dog walking in the UK. But you’ll also need to recognize dangers growing in hedgerows and along the roadside. The five most toxic plants in the UK are:
- Monkshood, also called wolfsbane – looks much like highly-prized delphinium (which is also somewhat toxic), but this is one of the most poisonous plants anywhere.
- Foxglove – the digitalis derived from this plant can save lives of certain heart patients, but ingesting the plant can cause heart damage instead.
- Cuckoo pint, or Arum maculatum – those pretty red berries can cause mouth pain and swelling, breathing difficulty, and stomach distress.
- Deadly nightshade – this infamous poisoner can cause convulsions and hallucinations. It is most often found in southern, eastern, and central England.
- Water hemlock – yep, the same one Socrates drank. It’s technically not native to the UK, but like many plants it has been accidentally introduced and now thrives in moist areas.
If you are headed to England from the United States, some or all of the plants named above are probably familiar to you. That’s likely to be the case with many of the names on your new garden “watch list” as well. And it is a pretty extensive list. The Royal Horticultural Society says there are more than 130 potentially poisonous garden plants in the UK. Some things you may not know:
- Dogs can be poisoned by eating spring bulbs such as daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips
- That sweet-smelling lily-of-the-valley you love is toxic to both cats and dogs.
- Lilies are especially lethal to cats – not only lily-of-the-valley but Lilium (stargazer, tiger lilies, etc.), day lilies, and autumn crocus. Just a bit of a flower petal or a bit of pollen brushed onto fur and then licked off is all it takes.
Where can you learn more?
There are multiple resources you can consult now or after you have settled into your new English home. You can learn how to recognize the most common and problematic plants and also get a better idea just how dangerous they really are. Most plants that are toxic are not deadly, but even relatively mild symptoms such as an upset stomach or diarrhea are not things any pet parent would wish on their beloved dog or cat.
- The Kennel Club offers this list of house and garden plants your dog should avoid.
- The ASPCA has compiled lists of plants worldwide that toxic to animals. You can bookmark or download the list for dogs here. And you’ll find the list for cats here.
Another great source of local information is your veterinarian. When you schedule a welcome visit for your pet after you have relocated, make a note to ask the vet about potentially poisonous plants that may be growing wild or in gardens nearby.