How can I identify poisonous plants in my home?

Babies and toddlers put EVERYTHING in their mouth.

If you’ve ever taken a course with me, you’ve probably heard me say “if it fits in their mouth, it’s going in their mouth”. When it comes to mobile babies and toddlers, this is unfortunately a reality we all learn to live with as parents. Our job, however, is to make sure the things going into their mouth aren’t 1. choking hazards and 2. poisonous.

When it comes to plants this can be tricky. Unless you’re a green thumb or horticulturalist, you may feel overwhelmed when it comes to identifying plants. But – if a child ingests a plant and we don’t know if it’s poisonous, we suddenly need to know exactly what it was, and may not know where to begin.

We are really lucky to live in a place with lots of lush greenery: our house is on the side of a mountain, our backyard is filled with plants, and everywhere you look there are mature plants and trees.

Despite that, I’m definitely not a green thumb – plants do not thrive in my care – and therefore, identifying plants isn’t my forté. The good news: that’s exactly PlantSnap’s forté.

Photo by Wild Hearts Collective for Safe Beginnings First Aid

Enter PlantSnap

PlantSnap is a free plant identification app available on the Apple App Store and Android/Google Play Store

PlantSnap operates on a ‘freemium’ model with the option for paid upgrades or a completely unlocked one-time paid Pro version.

The app allows you to simply take a photo of a plant and it will, surprisingly reliably, identify the plant the for you.

Image via PlantSnap

How I use PlantSnap to keep my kids safe

Using PlantSnap is, fortunately, really simple. You simply take a photo of the plant you’re curious about, and it will identify the plant for you. For example, I took a photo of this aloe plant I’ve somehow managed to keep alive for a few months. Once you’ve identified the plant — now we can figure out if it’s poisonous.



Determining if the plant is poisonous

This part is fairly easy. In most cases, a Google search is actually sufficient enough. However, has a wonderful list of common plants sorted into easy-to-read poisonous and non-poisonous lists. It’s by no means exhaustive, but it’s a great start. In my case, I know Aloe is not poisonous to humans so I didn’t actually need to look this one up – it’s just the only live plant I have in my home at the moment. 


What do I do if a child ingests a plant?

If a child ingests a plant, the best thing to do is immediately phone your local Poison Control Center. In the US, that number is 1 (800) 222-1222. In Canada, it varies from province to province. 

Pro tip: Pre-program your local Poison Control Center’s number into your cell phone. That way, if you ever need it, it’s already there for you.


Parenting hack: label all your plants

If you have a significant amount of houseplants you may want to consider labelling them. For example, a piece of painter’s tape with the plant name stuck to the bottom of the planter makes the plant easily identifiable. 

Why should I label my plants? If you ever need to phone Poison Control, then you’ve got this information ready-to-go. Just like pre-programming the Poison Control phone number into your cell phone, it saves you time. It also means that any other caregivers, such as grandparents or babysitters, won’t need to figure this out for themselves.



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