UKTC Archive

Re: Poisonous Plants

Subject: Re: Poisonous Plants
From: treespecialists@aol
Date: Mar 24 2012 01:58:32

If you want some stats for actual poison incidents try the NHS Poisons Unit which used to be based at Guys Hospital if my memory serves me right. Many years ago a dentist friend of mine rang them up when her daughter ate some strange berries in the garden. I got the impresstion they are the place that medical people ring up whenever a patient has eaten eaten something suspect. I should think they may collate stats on all kinds of poison cases in the UK and could be a useful source of the actual number of cases. Hopefully they may be able so show how few serious cases there are. Also HSE may have some RIDDOR statistics, but the Poisons Unit figures are likely to be more useful.

If the Poisons Unit is just another name for the NPIS then perhaps they may talk more freely to a Medical Person rather than an Arboriculturist so you may do better to ask a friendly doctor to approach them for you. Surely there must be some published reports or papers in the medical journals.....finding them is another matter.

I can also put you in touch with Marion Cooper who co-wrote a book on poisonous plants/fungi etc She is retired and keeps a few beehives these days but may be able to point you in the right direction.

Andrew McManus

----- Original Message ----- From: "Joseph Atkinson" <>
To: "UK Tree Care" <>
Sent: Friday, March 23, 2012 10:09 AM
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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