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Should I avoid euphorbia due to toxicity?

Hi all,

I recently purchased a euphorbia amygdaloides 'purpurea' as part of a '4 for £' deal and didn't realise that the sap of these plants is toxic until a friend mentioned it. I've not planted it out yet. 

I have a one year old daughter and I'm not planning to let her eat anything in the garden (unless it's an edible we pick together) and will make it clear we don't eat (most)plants. I'm also sure there are already some plants in our garden which wouldnt be nice to ingest either but would never leave her alone in the garden  

How bad is euphorbia? Should I not plant it at all or is that a bit of an overreaction? 

Any advice appreciated! 


  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Derbyshire but with a Nottinghamshire postcode. Posts: 16,461

    I have lots of euphorbia and sensitive skin. I only handle them with gloves on. The sap makes the skin more sensitive to the sun. Sap plus sunshine equals burn.  I would not plant it near the front of a border where it may get knocked and bleed sap.

    On balance, with a toddler, I would not have it as you cannot watch them all the time.

  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 33,284

    I think it no more dangerous then the corner of a table, or  the risk of jamming a finger in a door/ drawer. 

  • nutcutletnutcutlet PeterboroughPosts: 26,848

    We always used to grow it with no problem before the press got hold of it. I have been affected by the sap, it was a bit sore for a day or two but not worth a newspaper artcle. It's a most unlikely plant for anyone to eat. but I wouldn't leave a child alone in a garden until after the stage of putting everything in the mouth, there will be far nastier things out there that the press haven't picked up on yet.

  • punkdocpunkdoc Sheffield, Derbyshire border.Posts: 13,020

    Agree with Hosta.

    Life is dangerous, Euphorbia are a minor risk compared with many other things.

    There are ashtrays of emulsion,
    for the fag ends of the aristocracy.
  • Thanks for all of your responses. I guess I'm not as bothered about a bruise from bumping into a table as I am about ruining my childs kidneys (or whatever damage it is that ingesting a dodgy plant can do!). 

  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 33,284

    make sure you don't grow rhubarb. The leaves are highly toxic.

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 82,122

    I grew up with it in my family's garden ... when I was about 8 years old Ma gave me  a part of the garden as my own and one sunny day I weeded  it, pulling out everything there ... I must have got some of the euphorbia sap on my legs as for a few days afterwards I had swollen red wheals on them, which I think Ma treated with calamine lotion - I didn't see a doctor and I've been fine ever since ... Ma hadn't known about euphorbia sap ... I think a flower arranging friend told her about it some time later and she put two and two together and realised what had happened to me.  

    Children have to learn about danger ... stinging nettles, scratchy roses and brambles etc.  Until they are old enough to be reliable they shouldn't be outside unsupervised, as you've said.  

    It is as well to be aware of the dangers of course ... a member of this forum was cutting euphorbia and got some sap on her hands and must have rubbed her eyes ... she has had problems requiring hospital treatment.   

    I think it depends how vigilant you are prepared to be, how biddable your child is (some just aren't image) and how anxious you are ... if you're the anxious type there's no point in stressing yourself out when you can get rid of the plant until your family is old enough to be more sensible.

    Hope that helps you make up your mind.  image

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • Thank you Dove! Glad to hear you survived your run in with Euphorbia and how lovely that your mother encourged you to garden so young. 

    I'm probably just not going to plant it as I am the anxious type!  We had a rhododendron in my childhood garden and I always remember my grandad warning me away from that, which makes me wary of them. He probably made me more fearful than I needed to be! 

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 82,122

    It may have been Ma's way of getting the garden weeded image

    There was a laburnum tree at the top of the farm drive ... all the children knew that the seeds were poisonous ... our parents told us, we told other children, the big children told the little children, no one ever ate them and we all learned to recognise laburnum.  image

    As you say, the trick is to get children to understand the dangers without making them fearful.  image

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

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