A checklist of potentially harmful plants

Information sheet

Use this list to ensure your school garden is a safe place for everyone.

  • School term: All year round
  • Level of experience: No experience needed
  • Subject(s):

Follow these simple rules when gardening;


  • Teach children not to play with or eat plants
  • Use gloves when pruning or weeding and keep skin covered
  • Teach children that if it is not a food plant or crop, do not eat it
  • Teach children what parts of an edible crop they can eat e.g. you can't eat tomato or potato leaves or flowers. Use the 'Edible parts of a plant' image to help
  • Check plant labels for toxicity warnings, or research them before you buy or use it in your garden
  • Always wash hands after being out in the garden and ensure hands are washed before eating


  • Don't eat ornamental plants. They are very beautiful - but not meant to be eaten!
  • Do not leave prunings or dug up plants in reach of children, pets or wildlife
  • Don't touch a plant unless you know what it is 

What are the hazards?

Common hazards associated with plants can be caused by either ingestion or contact.

Ingestion hazard

  • Children are mostly at risk
  • Some plants may cause digestive upset or discomfort if eaten
  • A small number of common plants are more toxic and could cause severe poisoning (see link below for more information)

Contact hazard

  • Irritant sap may cause a burning sensation and sometimes blistering of skin. Anyone can be affected if the exposure is sufficient.
  • Some plants contain chemicals called allergens. These do not affect everyone, but some individuals may aquire sensitivity to them resulting in an allergic reaction.
  • A very small number of plants have sap which renders the skin excessively sensitive to strong sunlight. This can result in severe localised sunburn with blistering and long lasting skin discolouration.

To see a full list of harmful plants click here

What to do if someone has ingested or had skin contact with a hazardous plant

If you think a person has eaten part of a doubtful plant, seek medical advice immediately from a hospital accident & emergency department.

Take a sample of the plant with you

Do not panic and DO NOT try to make the person sick

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