Euphorbia pulcherrima (Scientific name)

General poisoning notes:

Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is a popular Christmas plant grown for its red leafy bracts. It has been listed as a known toxic plant that has caused a loss of human life. The case cited in all literature is based on the death of a child in Hawaii who ingested a leaf of poinsettia. The author of that report said that the incident was based on hearsay (Stone and Collins 1971). Various studies have not found any of the toxic diterpenes that occur in the latex of other spurges (Euphorbia spp.). Extensive studies on rats that were fed "extraordinarily" high doses of poinsettia showed no mortality, no symptoms of toxicity, and no changes in normal behaviour (Stone and Collins 1971). Klug et al. (1990) reviewed 353 calls to poison control centres and found that nausea and vomiting were cited in 0.02% of the cases with rash and sneezing cited in 0.0028%. An older dog that ingested poinsettia reportedly experienced protracted vomiting, followed by renal failure, coma, and death. This is the only case in the literature of death to an animal. Case histories show that some humans develop a sensitivity to the latex, resulting in dermatitis. Short exposures to poinsettia in a few cases have led to bouts of vomiting, but no substantiated cases of death can be found in the literature. Poinsettia should no longer be regarded as a severely toxic plant.

References:

  • Klug, S., Saleem, G., Hocharuk, L., Marcus, S. 1990. Toxicity potential of poinsettia, is the plant really toxic? Vet. Hum. Toxicol., 32: 368.
  • Santucci, B., Picardo, M., Cristaudo, A. 1985. Contact dermatitis from Euphorbia pulcherrima. Contact Dermatitis, 12: 285-286.
  • Spoerke, D. G., Smolinske, S. C. 1990. Toxicity of houseplants. CRC Press, Inc., Boca Raton, Fla., USA. 335 pp.
  • Stone, R. P., Collins, W. J. 1971. Euphorbia pulcherrima: toxicity to rats. Toxicon, 9: 301-302.

Nomenclature:

Scientific Name:
Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd. ex Klotzsch
Vernacular name(s):
poinsettia
Scientific family name:
Euphorbiaceae
Vernacular family name:
spurge

Go to ITIS*ca for more taxonomic information on: Euphorbia pulcherrima

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: Euphorbia pulcherrima - Google Search

Notes on Poisonous plant parts:

A few people have a positive reaction to the latex and to aqueous extracts of plant material (Santucci et al. 1985).

Toxic parts:

  • latex
  • leaves
  • stems

References:

  • Santucci, B., Picardo, M., Cristaudo, A. 1985. Contact dermatitis from Euphorbia pulcherrima. Contact Dermatitis, 12: 285-286.

Notes on Toxic plant chemicals:

The latex does not contain any diterpenes. The plant contains an unidentified chemical, which causes dermatitis in a few sensitive individuals (Santucci et al. 1985).

Toxic plant chemicals:

  • unknown chemical

References:

  • Santucci, B., Picardo, M., Cristaudo, A. 1985. Contact dermatitis from Euphorbia pulcherrima. Contact Dermatitis, 12: 285-286.

Animals/Human Poisoning:

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

Dogs

General symptoms of poisoning:

References:

  • Klug, S., Saleem, G., Hocharuk, L., Marcus, S. 1990. Toxicity potential of poinsettia, is the plant really toxic? Vet. Hum. Toxicol., 32: 368.

Humans

General symptoms of poisoning:

Notes on poisoning:

The most severe symptoms of poinsettia ingestion substantiated in the literature are a few cases of nausea and vomiting, with an occasional rash (Klug et al. 1990).

References:

  • Klug, S., Saleem, G., Hocharuk, L., Marcus, S. 1990. Toxicity potential of poinsettia, is the plant really toxic? Vet. Hum. Toxicol., 32: 368.
  • Santucci, B., Picardo, M., Cristaudo, A. 1985. Contact dermatitis from Euphorbia pulcherrima. Contact Dermatitis, 12: 285-286.

Rodents

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