Dieffenbachia seguine (Scientific name)

General poisoning notes:

Mother-in-law plant (Dieffenbachia seguine) is an ornamental. Chewing dumbcanes (Dieffenbachia spp.) leaves or stems causes immediate pain and swelling in the mouth and throat. In severe cases, speech may become unintelligible, hence the name dumbcane. In the past these plants were used as a means of human torture. Family pets have also been poisoned after chewing on dumbcane plant material. The effects are almost instantaneous, before the plant material is actually ingested. The plant juices can also cause inflammation and contact dermatitis in some individuals (Arditti and Rodriguez 1982, Lampe and McCann 1985). Mrvos et al. (1990) determined that in many cases where people had contact with broken leaves of dumbcane plants, symptoms occurred within 5 min and were short and of minor consequence. The researchers concluded that concerns regarding oral complications may be exaggerated.

References:

  • Arditti, J., Rodriguez, E. 1982. Dieffenbachia: uses, abuses and toxic constituents: a review. J. Ethnopharmacol., 5: 293-302.
  • Drach, G., Maloney, W. H. 1963. Toxicity of the common houseplant Dieffenbachia. J. Am. Med. Assoc., 184: 1047-1048.
  • Hanna, G. 1986. Plant poisoning in canines and felines. Vet. Hum. Toxicol., 28: 38-40.
  • Lampe, K. F., McCann, M. A. 1985. AMA Handbook of poisonous and injurious plants. American Medical Assoc. Chicago, Ill., USA. 432 pp.
  • Mrvos, R., Dean, B. S., Krenzelok, E. P. 1990. Philodendron/Dieffenbachia ingestions: are they a problem? Vet. Hum. Toxicol., 32: 369.

Nomenclature:

Scientific Name:
Dieffenbachia seguine (Jacq.) Schott
Vernacular name(s):
mother-in-law plant
Scientific family name:
Araceae
Vernacular family name:
arum

Go to ITIS*ca for more taxonomic information on: Dieffenbachia seguine

References:

  • Agriculture Quebec. 1975. Noms des maladies des plantes du Canada/ Names of plant diseases in Canada. , Quebec City, Que., Canada. 288 pp.
  • Alex, J. F., Cayouette, R., Mulligan, G. A. 1980. Common and botanical names of weeds in Canada/Noms populaire et scientifiques des plantes nuisibles du Canada. Revised. Agric. Can. Publ., Ottawa, Ont., Canada. 132 pp.
  • Bailey, L. H., Bailey, E. Z. 1976. Hortus third. Revised. MacMillan, New York, N.Y., USA. 1290 pp.
  • Scoggan, H. J. 1978, 1979. The flora of Canada. Nat. Mus. Nat. Sci. (Ottawa) Publ. Bot. 7(1)-7(4). 1711 pp.
  • Van Wijk, H. L. 1911. A dictionary of plant names. Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, The Netherlands. 1444 pp.
  • Victorin, M. 1964. Flore Laurentienne. 2nd ed. Univ. Montreal, Montreal, Que., Canada. 952 pp.

Geographic Information

Plant or plant parts used in or around the home.

References:

  • Bailey, L. H., Bailey, E. Z. 1976. Hortus third. Revised. MacMillan, New York, N.Y., USA. 1290 pp.
  • Boivin, B. 1966, 1967. Énumération des plantes du Canada. Provencheria 6. Nat. Can. (Que.) 93: 253-274; 371-437; 583-646; 989-1063. 94: 131-157; 471-528; 625-655.

Image or illustration

Images: Dieffenbachia seguine - Google Search

Toxic parts:

  • leaves
  • stems

References:

  • Cheeke, P. R., Shull, L. R. 1985. Natural toxicants in feeds and poisonous plants. AVI Publishing Company, Inc., Westport, Conn., USA. 492 pp.
  • Walter, W. G., Khanna, P. N. 1972. Chemistry of the aroids 1. Dieffenbachia seguine, amoena and picta. Econ. Bot., 26: 364-372.

Notes on Toxic plant chemicals:

Dieffenbachia spp. contain calcium oxalate crystals, which are found in special cells called idioblasts; these cells have nozzle-like apertures at either end. The small needle-like crystals are small (0.2 mm long) and are forcibly extruded when the tissue is ruptured, as when chewed. This release of crystals from plant tissue can continue for several minutes. The initial sensation upon ingesting dumbcane tissue is one of pain (Dore 1963, Cheeke and Schull 1985). Proteolytic enzymes have also been found in dumbcanes and may account for some of the toxic effects (Walter and Khanna 1963, Arditti and Rodriquez 1982).

Toxic plant chemicals:

  • oxalate
  • proteolytic enzymes

References:

  • Arditti, J., Rodriguez, E. 1982. Dieffenbachia: uses, abuses and toxic constituents: a review. J. Ethnopharmacol., 5: 293-302.
  • Cheeke, P. R., Shull, L. R. 1985. Natural toxicants in feeds and poisonous plants. AVI Publishing Company, Inc., Westport, Conn., USA. 492 pp.
  • Walter, W. G., Khanna, P. N. 1972. Chemistry of the aroids 1. Dieffenbachia seguine, amoena and picta. Econ. Bot., 26: 364-372.

Animals/Human Poisoning:

Note: When an animal is listed without additional information, the literature (as of 1993) contained no detailed explanation.

Cats

General symptoms of poisoning:

References:

  • Hanna, G. 1986. Plant poisoning in canines and felines. Vet. Hum. Toxicol., 28: 38-40.

Dogs

Humans

General symptoms of poisoning:

Notes on poisoning:

Chewing dumbcane plants causes immediate intense pain and irritation of the lips, tongue, and mouth. There is edematous swelling of the oral mucosa. Bullae may form. Speech capability is often reduced or lost, a condition that can last for several days. The pain and irritation can also persist, and the edema can leave superficial necrosis. Excessive salivation is common. Treatment requires use of cool liquids; analgesics may be indicated (Arditti and Rodriguez 1982, Lampe and McCann 1985). Cut stem sections are particularly dangerous for nursery workers because of the possibility of getting plant juices into the eyes. Inflammation accompanied by intense pain, watering, and gross swelling can occur. Visual acuity may be reduced (Arditti and Rodriquez 1982).

References:

  • Arditti, J., Rodriguez, E. 1982. Dieffenbachia: uses, abuses and toxic constituents: a review. J. Ethnopharmacol., 5: 293-302.
  • Drach, G., Maloney, W. H. 1963. Toxicity of the common houseplant Dieffenbachia. J. Am. Med. Assoc., 184: 1047-1048.
  • Lampe, K. F., McCann, M. A. 1985. AMA Handbook of poisonous and injurious plants. American Medical Assoc. Chicago, Ill., USA. 432 pp.

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