You should always wear gloves in the garden

Is Rhododendron Really Poisonous?

First things first: Rhododendrons are poisonous for humans and animals, but of course you don't have to go into the garden straight away and tear out all the rhododendrons. But you should be careful when handling a rhododendron, especially when caring for it and when children or pets have access to it. Do not place rhododendrons in places where children can play or where they can easily get to the plants - i.e. not next to a sandpit. In any case, it is difficult to banish poisonous plants from the garden completely, because beans, thuja or even unripe, green tomatoes are poisonous.

If children have access to the garden, however, you should refrain from using very poisonous species such as yew, laburnum, eu cone, holly or daphne, which also have attractive-looking plant parts. The rhododendron benefits from the fact that most species have neither tasty-looking berries nor tasty-smelling leaves and neither humans nor animals will nibble on a rhododendron in a targeted manner. Nevertheless, its poison can cause severe symptoms if accidentally ingested, especially in young children or pets.

What is poisonous about the rhododendron?

Leaves, flowers, shoots, fruits and even nectar and pollen: all parts of the rhododendron are poisonous. But they are all not parts that you nibble on as a pet, simply put in your mouth as a discovery-loving child or that hobby gardeners constantly work on for longer without gloves. But always wear gloves when working on rhododendrons in the garden so as not to come into contact with the poison in the first place.

Which rhododendrons are poisonous?

There are over 1,000 species of rhododendron and a large number of varieties and hybrids, most of which are poisonous. Even the excessive consumption of Pontic honey, which is obtained from Rhododendron ponticum, is said to be able to trigger symptoms. After all, not only are leaves and flowers poisonous, but also the nectar.

While some rhododendron varieties are considered completely non-toxic, with most rhododendrons just consuming a flower or a leaf is enough to trigger symptoms. It is difficult to say which special types and varieties of rhododendron are particularly poisonous, as the poisonous ingredients are present in very different concentrations. Since very few hobby gardeners know all varieties, simply consider all varieties as poisonous when handling them, then you are on the safe side.

What symptoms can poisonous rhododendrons cause?

The plants contain a cocktail of different poisons such as acetylandromedol, andromedotoxin, poisons from the class of diterpenes and grayanotoxins. Most poisons act on the nervous system. The smaller or weaker people or animals are, the more severe the symptoms become. Even the eaten leaf of a single plant can cause symptoms, and a critical dose cannot be precisely defined.

In humans, the poisonous plants cause irritation of the mucous membranes, skin tingling, excessive salivation, sweating as well as dizziness and general nausea. In the case of severe poisoning, paralysis, weak pulse, slowed heart activity up to coma or respiratory failure occur. Fatal poisoning has not yet been documented, but unfortunately it is in domestic animals and grazing animals.

In domestic animals, herbivores such as rabbits, guinea pigs and especially turtles are particularly at risk, with cramps, paralysis and increased salivation, symptoms similar to humans, but can also die because of their smaller body size. Horses in particular are extremely sensitive to the poison. The animals, like tortoises, can die within a few hours. You should therefore avoid rhododendrons in paddocks.

Whether humans or animals: If severe symptoms such as paralysis and nausea occur after consuming rhododendron leaves, it is important to drink plenty of fluids. Go to a doctor or veterinarian as soon as possible, who can pump out your stomach if necessary. Charcoal tablets with medicinal charcoal can also alleviate the symptoms of poisoning - in humans and pets.

In a nutshell: is rhododendron poisonous?

Most species and varieties of rhododendron are poisonous to humans and animals, and all parts of the plant, including nectar and pollen, contain toxins. Care should therefore be taken when handling the flowering bushes. Especially in children, pets and horses, the consumption of plant parts can lead to symptoms of poisoning.