UKTC Archive

RE: Poisonous Plants

Subject: RE: Poisonous Plants
From: Hill Tina
Date: Mar 23 2012 13:42:48
Interesting thread this one. Why stop at holly? Privet berries are also
poisonous, rowan needs cooking before eating, blackthorn can give a nasty
rash from the spikes, wayfaring tree can cause vomiting, spindle in large
enough doses can give hallucinations and I haven't even begun to mention all
the different irritants and poisons in common plant saps.
As has already been mentioned the likelihood of anyone eating enough to
cause illness or death is very low simply because of the bitter nature of
many of these plant parts. It is too simplistic to remove such plants. How
will the child know what is safe to eat or not when looking at the plant in
another context? There are plenty of holly berries around at Christmas not
to mention mistletoe. Much more sensible and safer to teach what can and
what cannot be eaten and where best to do this than in a school context. How
much fun is there to be had from picking wild strawberries, blackberries or
blaeberries, beech and hazel nuts, or making nettle soup. Plenty of
supervision, all activities risk assessed and fun.
Or at the risk of being cynical is it simply a case of protection against
possible insurance claims. In which case far better to keep our children in
cotton wool and have done. (or maybe not they might be allergic to it)

Sorry for the rant but this sort of nonsense really annoys me.

Tina Hill
Arbennigwr Coed - Arboriculturalist
Asiantaeth Cefnffyrdd Gogledd Cymru - North Wales Trunk Road Agency
7 Llys Onnen,
Ffordd Y Llyn
Parc Menai
LL57 4 DF

Tel: 01286 XXXXXX
-----Original Message-----
From: Mark Hinsley []
Sent: 23 March 2012 11:35
To: UK Tree Care
Subject: RE: Poisonous Plants

I remember reading somewhere that the reason it is so difficult to get young
children to eat such things as spring greens and spinach is that they have a
deep built in aversion to anything that tastes bitter and that said aversion
is an instinctive survival mechanism. There must be a reason that recorded
deaths from eating toxic plants appears to be so rare and that may well be
it. Perhaps H&S should look more closely at normal human behaviour when
making their risk assessment?

Mark Hinsley

-----Original Message-----
From: David Lonsdale []
Sent: 23 March 2012 10:33
To: UK Tree Care
Subject: RE: Poisonous Plants

DL  I think that your H&S colleague needs to understand the principles of
risk assessment.  One of the basic requirements is to assess the probability
of occurrence of an adverse event during a given period of time (in this
case the ingestion of a seriously harmful number of berries). Your very good
argument about "spitting out" suggests a low probability.  Could it be that
your H&S colleague is getting confused between "what could happen" (e.g. the
earth might get hit by an asteroid next week) or "what is likely to happen"?

-----Original Message-----
From: Joseph Atkinson []
Sent: 23 March 2012 10:09
To: UK Tree Care
Subject: Poisonous Plants

Hello Forum

My colleagues and I have been working with our schools to promote
ecological learning. Many schools, particularly Primaries, now have
Forest Schools, often featuring newly planted small woodlands and hedges
with an emphasis on native species, thus including Privet, Spindle,
Rowan, Holly and Wayfaring Tree.

Our colleague in the H&S team advising schools is recommending that
Holly is removed from all primaries, as the only text he can refer to is
MAFF's 'Poisonous Plants & Fungi' (HMSO 1988), in which pretty much
everything is 'poisonous' and 'potentially lethal'.

We feel very strongly that to systematically remove all Holly (and
potentially everything else described in his book as poisonous!) is very
poor risk management, being grossly disproportionate to the risk.

Rather like poor old Saddam, we are finding it difficult to prove a
negative: there is no solid data on toxicity and incidences of poisoning
by plants, we suspect because it quite simply never occurs.

Our case is that, whilst a goat might chew enough Holly berries to
receive a toxic dose of glycosides, no child is ever likely to because
it is not palateable. Berry in, chew, immediately spit out?

Does anyone have any suggestions for sources of information on this

To date, I have researched HSE stats, the Institute of Biomedical
Science, the Royal College of Pathology and Royal College of General
Practitioners. None of these have any information, opinion or advice to
offer, other than HSE advice to try the HPA.

I have found an HPA/NPIS leaflet on "Low Toxicity Substances" which
includes Holly. The NPIS is proving elusive, but I do now have a phone
number for their equivalent in Wales, via the Public Health Board.

Our H&S colleague is not an unreasonable man, and has a difficult job
to do. We agree that Laburnum and Cherry Laurel are not appropriate
planting in Primary School settings. We need to support him in
unearthing better guidance than he is currently using, so that children
can safely learn about native plants and risk assessment.

Any help will be very much appreciated!

Best wishes

Joe Atkinson, FdSc, TechArborA.
Arboricultural Officer
Room 704B
Green Team, Streetscene
Newport City Council
NP20 4UR

01633 XXXXXX

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