Looking in my books, I dug up a little one called “Wicked Plants” by Amy Stewart, to see what we may be growing and what they could do. One that many of us keep is ALOE VERA because of its magic relief of burns and scrapes when we put a small piece on the hurt. It is easy to grow, does not demand much water or fertilizer and a loose soil.  But do not let your cat eat it as it can cause convulsions, paralysis, and severe irritation of the mouth, throat and digestive tract. All parts of LILIES are also toxic to cats, and can cause kidney failure.

          CASTOR BEANS are fun to grow, especially the ones with the big red leaves, but not if there is likely to a child who likes to put things in their mouth.  The beans can get to 10 feet tall. The seeds are big and interesting but they contain RICIN.  If you remember, RICIN has been used recently to kill. Castor Oil has been a common home remedy for ages but the RICIN has been removed. Castor oil is used in some cosmetics.

          YEW TREES (Taxus species) are popular all over our yards. They can stand a shady area, slow growing, with some known to be 200 years old. Most parts of the YEW TREE are poisonous. In England it is called the grave yard tree.  It is not all bad as Taxol, a YEW extract is used to fight ovarian, breast, and lung cancers. “Taxus baccata” is the English YEW.

          For years I have had a PENCIL PLANT (Euphorbia TIRUCALLI) also called MILK BUSH that grows into a weird form going in all directions, with only a few small leaves. I can break off a “pencil” and it will root into a new plant and the mother plant will drip milky, sticky sap for some time. There is one called “Fire Sticks” with reddish stems.

However, I have noticed people being sensitive to the Euphorbia group that causes severe rashes and eye irritation. So if you plan to get one also get a pair of gloves you can wash or is disposable. My plant has gotten to be a jungle of sticks about 4 feet tall.

Another plant that is sold in Garden Centers and has very long (12 to 18 inches) trumpet shaped blooms is the ANGEL TRUMPET. You can have a “Datura” that has blooms that look upward or a “Brugsmania” that has blooms that look down. Both are poisonous. Both are not hardy but produce many seed pods about the size of an egg, and covered with spikes. The trumpets may be white, orange, bright yellow, or purple. There is a native white one called JIMSON WEED, named after Jamestown Island in Virginia. New settlers died after eating the seeds when they ran out of food.  The ANGEL TRUMPETS were written into several murder mysteries as a result.

If you have a LILY POND you have probably bought WATER HYACINTHS for their lovely lavender bloom. In Southern parts of the United Sates they have been banned because they reproduce so fast they clog waterways and provide cover for Snakes and Crocodiles. They are not hardy in Nebraska so do not cause that problem here.

Copyright 2015.