- Author: Michelle Davis
I am a frequent flier at UC Davis. My husband and I have walked our dogs the entire length of the arboretum once or twice weekly for over twenty years. It wasn't until about 5 years ago, on a break from a UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) pet appointment, that we discovered the Toxic Plant Garden. It is on the north side of the anatomy building very close to the VMTH. The garden has over 60 plants known to be poisonous to pets and livestock and some to people, as well.
The original garden was designed by Murray Fowler DVM (1928 - 2014), a name some may recognize as the former Sacramento Zoo veterinarian. He was also the first to author a zoological medicine text used to train zoo animal medicine. He designed the Toxic Plant Garden in 1970 in a different location near the VMTH, and he and some of his students maintained it. In 2006, Dr. John Pasco relocated the garden to its present location. Mick Mount, Clinical Toxicologist worked together with Dr. Fowler (who was retired by this time) to select the plants from a long list to plant in the new garden. A walk through the current garden can be eye-opening. Plants you never thought would be toxic ARE to our pets and livestock (lemon verbena, aloe!)
While the plants are identified in the garden, a list of them can be found at this address: https://ccah.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/sites/g/files/dgvnsk4586/files/local_resources/pdfs/toxic_plants_common%20name_Auug2011.pdf
It is not the complete list of every toxic plant you can buy. There is no such list that I am aware of. I check numerous sites before I bring a plant home and still have unwittingly planted something that I later find out is potentially poisonous. I will have found it on one list and not on another. Fortunately, my husband and I adopt older dogs now, who seem to have the sense or have gained the wisdom before we got them, to not eat everything in sight.
Some sites I have used to check for plant toxicity are ASPCA, HSUS, Cornell University, and the Sunset Western Garden Book which has an icon to identify a poisonous plant. Of course, if there is any concern, after ingestion, contact your veterinarian immediately or the Poison Pet Helpline at (800) 213-6680 or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435. Each of the phone hotlines has a fee attached.