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Poinsettias May Not Be As Poisonous As Once Thought

With all of the things worrying area residents as we approach the end of 2021, one expert says we can put concerns about poinsettias out of our minds. While there are long-standing rumors about the red-and-green flowers traditionally associated with Christmas being deadly if eaten, registered nurse Tammy Noble at the Iowa Poison Control Center, says that’s simply not true.

One study found that a child would have to eat as many as 500 poinsettia leaves to become poisoned, but aside from that, Noble says the leaves taste terrible so no one would likely ever eat a lethal dose of them. They’re a lovely plant, she says, and they shouldn’t concern you.

Other plants that may appear in your house during the year-end holidays could pose a more significant threat. Noble says to take care with holly berries and mistletoe as they -can- be poisonous. If you have a question or concern, call the Sioux City-based Iowa Poison Control Center anytime at 1-800-222-1222.

The poinsettia is native to Mexico and dates back centuries to when the Aztecs cultivated them to be more like trees that grew to be ten feet high. Seventeenth-century Franciscan priests in Mexico used poinsettias in nativity processions, the first recorded use for a Christmas celebration, though they weren’t called poinsettias then. That didn’t come until Joel Robert Poinsette introduced the plant to the U.S. in 1825 while he was the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. The plants were later named to honor him.

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