There are many plants that we can find in our gardens and woodlands that may contain a degree of toxicity, but do you know which ones they are?

It is very uncommon in the UK to gain serious poisoning by plants, but it is good to be aware of those that can cause skin irritations and allergic reactions. It is important to be mindful of what you are planting, especially in areas such as school playgrounds where children are often encouraged to touch plants and nature for sensory purposes.

The risks to be aware of when encountering toxic plants include:

  • Ingestion hazards – some plants may cause digestive upset or discomfort if eaten. If it is not a food plant, do not eat it!
  • Skin irritations – some sap may cause a burning sensation or blistering of the skin, this can affect anyone with enough exposure. Other plants have sap that can affect the skin when exposed to sunlight, resulting in localised sunburn with blistering and long-lasting skin discolouration.
  • Allergic reactions – some plants contain allergens which may affect some individuals with a higher sensitivity to them.

We must remember that all these plants are safe to grow, provided they are treated with respect. These plants are a vital part of our ecosystem, and many are a food source for other wildlife, especially pollinators.  To avoid any risks, it is advised to cover your skin and wear gloves when pruning or weeding, and to check plant labels for toxicity warnings.

Below is a small list of the plants that can be potentially harmful to people. This list can be found on the RHS website with further information.

Bluebell Hyacinthoides – poisonous

Buckthorn Rhamnus – poisonous; skin irritant

Cherry Laurel / Laurel Prunus laurocerasus – poisonous

Chrysanthemum – skin irritant

Cuckoo pint / lords-and-ladies Arum maculatum – poisonous; skin & eye irritant

Daffodil Narcissus – somewhat poisonous; skin irritant

Deadly nightshade Atropa belladonna – poisonous; skin irritant

Devil’s ivy Epipremnum – poisonous; skin & eye irritant

Elder Sambucus except S. nigra – poisonous

Foxglove Digitalis purpurea – poisonous

Hogweed Heracleum spp – severe skin irritant in bright sunlight

Hyacinth Hyacinthus – skin irritant

Ivy Hedera – somewhat poisonous; skin irritant

Lantana – poisonous; skin irritant

Larkspur Delphineum including Consolida – poisonous

Leyland cypress x Cuprocyparis leylandii – skin irritant

Lily of the valley Convallaria majalis – poisonous

Monkshood Aconitum napellus – poisonous; irritant to and via the skin

Poison hemlock Conium maculatum – poisonous

Poison ivy Rhus – poisonous; severe skin irritant

Portuguese laurel Prunus lusitanica – seed kernels are poisonous

Privet Ligustrum – somewhat poisonous

Spindle tree Euonymus – somewhat poisonous

Tulip Tulipa – skin irritant

Cuckoo Pint

Cuckoo pint



Portuguese laurel

Portuguese laurel







For more information regarding planting for your site, please contact our Landscape Architecture team on 01666 825646, or email