Croton plants are colorful perennials comprising shrubs, bushes, and small trees that light up every garden space. The prominent shades that adorn the leaves of these plants are a result of “anthocyanin”, pigments that brighten its colors. These plants are easy to maintain and grow from about three to eight feet in height.
The leaves of these plants are particularly different from other plants as they have a leathery texture, are multicolored, and appear shiny. They grow in various shapes and sizes and their colors darken as they grow older.
Crotons are generally used as hedge plants or to increase the beauty of landscapes with their colorful demeanour. But are croton plants poisonous? Let’s find out.
Toxicity in plants varies and so does their effect on humans and animals. Various factors come into play when it comes to measuring the toxicity and its effect on both humans as well as animals.
Some may be life-threatening just by a single touch or consumption of a tiny drop. In some, the toxin itself might not be strong but the symptoms may cause severe problems that may sometimes result in death.
This being said let’s have a look at the toxins present in Codiaeum variegatum, discuss if they are fatal and how they can cause harm to both our families as well as our pets.
This comprehensive information will better equip you to grow croton plants at home, amid the speculations and claims about Crotons, the most daunting question is that is the
Croton Plant Toxic?
The single word answer to all claims with regards to the Croton plant exhibiting characteristics of a poisonous plant is “yes”. The Codiaeum variegatum and the numerous variants associated with it are proven to be toxic or poisonous plants.
Among all variants of the plant, the most toxic species are “The Mamey Croton” and “the Gold Dust Croton”.
As compared to other species of toxic plants the toxic levels of Crotons are not very high. Hence, they can be incorporated into a balcony garden or used as a house plant. But it is advisable that people planning to do so are cautious, especially if they have infants or pets at home.
Based on research conducted over the years, crotons have proven to be toxic for Humans, Dogs, and Cats, the intensity of which depends on various factors.
If the effects are classified into two major categories one tropical where if the sap from the leaves or stem of these plants comes in contact with the skin it can cause Dermatitis. And second, when ingested it can cause gastrointestinal problems.
Now that the premise that Croton plants are poisonous or toxic is clear. We need to understand what parts of these plants are Toxic and how one can deal with it.
Studies conducted on the plant to check for toxic elements suggest that all parts of the Croton plant including the leaves, stem, roots, flowers, and seeds are toxic.
All these parts have been shown to have traces of the chemical 5-deoxyingenol. Which when in contact with humans and animals causes blisters, redness, and burning sensations.
Are croton plants poisonous
Find below a list of the parts of the Croton plant and what happens when you come in contact with them.
Stem and Leaves
Looking at the overall structure of these plants we see that the leaves and stem are more prominent. Being the most attractive they are prone to touch, tugging, chewing in animals and infants. While pruning and maintaining as well these parts are the most ‘touched’
The Stem and leaves produce a milky sap that can lead to skin irritation and in worst cases skin infections if it comes in direct contact with the skin.
The infection may be even severe if the sap comes in contact with the eyes or mouth, especially in children and pets. If ingested the Sap can cause stomach irritation and infections.
Therefore, if you have infants and curious children be very careful with this plant as it may have serious health implications.
Stem / Bark
Along with the sap coming out of the leaves, there is a possibility of your pets chewing on the stem of the plant. Children can also be curious about the texture and try to nibble on branches. The sap when in contact with the mouth causes a burning sensation.
There are also reports of eczema being caused in some gardeners due to the latex of the plant after repeated exposure.
The roots of the Croton plant are as toxic as the rest of the plant but they are neatly tucked away in the soil. This makes it hard to reach. In some cases, the roots are on the surface of the pot or jet out through the drainage holes.
This is normally caused due to the lack of water and is a way in which the plant absorbs more water and moisture. At such times the roots are easily accessible for children and pets.
Chewing on these roots causes a burning sensation in the mouth and vomiting and diarrhoea
In some areas of the world, the oil extracted from the seeds of the Croton plant is used to make medicine despite serious safety concerns regarding this plant. People use the seeds to treat constipation and sometimes apply it directly on the skin to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), gout and other such medical conditions.
Do the seeds work as a medicine?
The seeds of the Croton plant and the oil extracted from them contain chemicals that irritate the stomach and intestines. This causes diarrhoea and may be seen as a remedy for constipation.
If you speak about the safety of using the seeds or the oil as a medicine
It is proved to be unsafe when taken orally as it can cause a burning sensation in the mouth, vomiting, painful bowel movements, dizziness sometimes fainting, and may in some extreme cases cause death.
It is unsafe for local applications as well. Because, when applied to the skin it causes itching, burning, blisters, and other symptoms
It is particularly unsafe for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers as it is harmful to both mother and child. In pregnant women, croton seed oil can cause an abortion.
Symptoms of croton poisoning in humans
We have spoken about the effect of the different parts of the croton plant in the previous section. This section goes into specifics of the symptoms of croton poisoning in humans.
These may not be fatal but ingestion of the plant or any part of the plant can cause a burning sensation in the mouth. This burning will stop the child from going in for a second bite of the leaf or stem or whatever part they fancy.
This being said if the plant or any part of it is ingested it will result in abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and other symptoms associated with an upset stomach.
In addition to these if there is contact with the skin there is a burning sensation, blisters break out and in extreme cases, it may cause eczema or other skin diseases.
Symptoms Pets exhibit
Pets are curious about everything in the house. They like to nibble, scratch, and chew anything colorful, soft, and most importantly new. Pets are like children they do not like it when we pay attention to something else, something that is not them.
This curiosity and insecurity often lead them to the balcony garden, where their human parents seem to be spending a lot of time.
Most plants in Balcony gardens are animal friendly and may not cause harm if they ingest a leaf or two. But, as far as Croton plants are concerned, they might have detrimental effects.
Ingestion of the leaves, bark, sap, or any part of Crotons can cause mild to severe symptoms. The intensity depends on the age and overall health of the pet and the amount ingested.
This being said symptoms are harsher if your pet is recovering from other ailments or has a skin infection.
Signs to look for
- Excessive drooling
- Skin irritation
- Constant pawing at the mouth or other parts of the body to indicate discomfort
- They may also appear restless, tired or moody
The symptoms should go away on their own in about a day or two. But, for some reason, if it persists it is advisable to visit a vet right away.
Tips on Protecting yourself while handling a Croton plant
We knew now how croton plants are poisonous, you should protect yourself while handling a croton plant.
- Avoid coming in direct contact with the sap – pay attention to broken leaves or parts of the stem while working with the plant.
- Wear protective gloves during activities of plant care – this includes pruning, trimming, gathering cuttings for propagation and so on.
- If your pet comes in contact with the sap wash them immediately with soapy water.
- If they ingest any part of the plant call the veterinarian immediately.
- If children come in contact with the sap wash them immediately.
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We can say that crotons are beautiful and add a hue of color to your balcony garden. They may have a bad reputation for being poisonous but we assure you they can be a great addition to your balcony garden.
If you decide to get them with children or pets around be sure to keep them out of their reach. As these plants require partial sun, they can be tucked away neatly so that they are not in the reach of both your children and pets.
So, are croton plants poisonous? Yes, to some extent Should you get them? Yes definitely.
I am Elsa, love gardening. I spent lots of time with plants, flowers, it gives me lots of happiness.
I am sharing all the practical tips on how to grow various plants, flower plants, vegetables in the garden. Read more about me.