There are a number of common plants in Australian gardens which can cause harm to people and to animals. This harm could be in numerous forms including;

  • poisoning,
  • skin irritation
  • respiratory irritation
  • direct injury through puncture or abrasion.


Many cases of poisoning are through ingestion of the plant material and this is equally true for people as well as animals.  The most at risk of poisoning are small children and those who mistake poisonous plants as edible plants. The list below details some poisonous plants, but this is by no means a complete list.

Botanical Name Common Name Notes
Digitalis purpurea Foxglove All parts of the plant are poisonous
Abrus precatorius Crabs eye creeper Bright red and black seeds which are highly poisonous.
Brugmansia Angels trumpets Trumpet shaped flowers, all parts of the plant are poisonous
Nerium oleander Oleander Common flowering shrub poisonous to people and animals
Castanospermum australe Black bean Toxic seeds
Lantana camara Lantana Flowering shrub, a declared weed, green fruit poisonous

Edible Plants

Some foods which we commonly eat may be poisonous in certain circumstances, some considerations are;

  • If the part we are eating is unripe, e.g. green potatoes
  • The plant is not processed to remove the toxins e.g. cassava or sago palms
  • Some other parts of the plant not commonly eaten may be poisonous e.g. rhubarb leaves may be harmful but not the stalks

General Considerations

  • Don’t eat the plant unless you are certain it is safe to do so.
  • Think about plant selection for your garden and consider thorough fares, boundary lines and what access children or pets have.
  • Remove any unwanted plants from your gardens that are harmful, especially any that are recognised weeds
  • Pets may be at risk of poisoning from plants which are not poisonous to people so if you have a pet do some research

Puncture or abrasion injury

Some plants have spines, thorns or prickles which can cause abrasion or puncture injuries to people and animals.

Examples of common plants with spines, thorns or prickles include:

  • Bougainvillea
  • Yucca
  • Rose
  • Citrus
  • Various Cacti species
  • Blackberries and other Rubus species
  • Various Acacia (wattle) species

It is best to ensure that plants with  spines, thorns or prickles are planted away from high traffic areas as well as pathways and gates.

Precautions should be taken when pruning such plants and appropriate protective equipment such as gloves, eye protection, long sleeved shirt and pants  should be worn. Take particular care of sensitive areas such as eyes and ears when dealing with these plants as injury to these areas can be severe.

In an emergency for people contact triple 0 (000) or the poisons information centre on 13 11 26 and for pets contact your local vet

Disclaimer: Further advice should also be sought from your local health care professional.

For further information the following sources may be useful