Toxic Invasive Plants for Pets

Toxic Invasive Plants for Pets
Toxic Invasive Plants for Pets

For pet owners, the presence of invasive species brings an additional concern – some of these plants are also toxic to dogs, cats, or other animals. While not all invasive species are toxic, there are several invasive plants that are toxic to pets and still sold in stores in the Sea to Sky.

Below, we’ll share a few commonly sold invasive plants that also pose a toxic hazard to pets. If you see these plants sold in any stores near you, avoid purchasing them, and consider (politely) voicing your concerns with the store owner.

Keep in mind that these invasive plants may be found outside of plant stores and gardens, as they are known for escaping cultivation and invading a variety of habitats. By familiarizing yourself with them, you can help keep your pets safe while out for walks or adventures.

Yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus)

Yellow Flag Iris is an aquatic perennial with a fan-shaped base and yellow iris-shaped flowers. All parts of the plant contain toxic compounds, including glycosides, which can be harmful when consumed by both humans and pets. Dogs and cats that accidentally ingest or come into contact with this plant may experience symptoms such as drooling, vomiting, diarrhea or skin irritation.

Originally introduced to BC as an ornamental plant, it has since escaped cultivation and established itself aggressively in natural habitats. Yellow Flag Iris is still grown, sold and distributed in the horticulture trade (despite being recognized as provincially noxious in BC), which also contributes to its spread. Keep your eye out for this plant near wet areas and standing water.


Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

Foxglove is a beautiful flowering plant often found in gardens and natural landscapes. Unfortunately, Foxglove contains glycoside digitoxins which can have severe effects on humans and animals if ingested. For pets, including dogs and cats, even small amounts of Foxglove can lead to various dangerous symptoms. These may include vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, heart irregularities, and seizures. Because the toxins directly affect the heart, the consequences of ingestion can be life-threatening.

Foxglove is still sold in plant stores around the Sea to Sky, and is sometimes found in wildflower mixes. Before buying any wildflower mixes, check the contents for Foxglove, which may be listed by its scientific name, Digitalis purpurea. (Check out this blog post on wildflower mixes to learn more). This plant also grows in various conditions and may be found along roadsides or in wooded areas.

English Ivy (Hedera helix)

English Ivy is a popular and attractive climbing plant used in gardens and as indoor decor. However, if ingested English Ivy is toxic to dogs, cats, and other animals. The plant contains several substances that can lead to various adverse reactions in pets. When ingested, English Ivy can cause gastrointestinal issues, including vomiting and diarrhea. Additionally, it may lead to oral irritation, excessive drooling, and difficulty swallowing. If that wasn’t enough already- contact with the plant’s leaves can also cause skin irritation and allergic reactions in some pets.

This plant is commonly sold in stores and regularly escapes gardens. It spreads quickly through its root and stem fragments and can be found in many habitats, such as disturbed areas, fields, parks, forest edges, coastal areas, and steep slopes and cliffs.


English Holly (Ilex aquifolium)

English Holly is an evergreen shrub known for its glossy green leaves and bright red berries, which look great as holiday decorations. Due to its popularity as a holiday decoration, it is often sold in plant shops and nurseries.

While beautiful, Holly’s leaves and berries contain compounds that can harm pets. Although ingestion is generally not fatal, English Holly can cause gastrointestinal distress. Furthermore, the berries are attractive to pets due to their vibrant colour, making them more susceptible to ingestion.

If it escapes gardens, English Holly will outcompete native plants by forming dense monocultures and modifying soil conditions. It can be found in forests, wetlands or near residential areas.

Small Periwinkle (Vinca minor)

Small Periwinkle is an evergreen ground cover with small, purple, pinwheel-shaped flowers. It is commonly sold in garden centers as a low-maintenance and attractive plant. Due to its low-growing nature, Small Periwinkle is easily accessible to curious pets.

Unfortunately, Small Periwinkle contains several toxins that can harm pets. If pets ingest Small Periwinkle, they may experience symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. As an invasive plant, Small Periwinkle easily escapes from gardens to form dense mats on forest floors, which discourages the growth of native plants, so be sure to watch out for this plant around residential areas or in moist forested areas.


Spurge Laurel (Daphne laureola)

Spurge Laurel is a shade-tolerant, evergreen shrub that grows in wooded areas and gardens, especially in the region’s South end. Spurge Laurel is not only toxic to humans but also toxic to dogs, cats, and other animals if ingested. All parts of the plant, including its leaves, berries, and stems, contain toxic compounds called daphnetoxins. Exposure to the sap can cause skin rashes and nausea (in both humans and pets). Consequences can be severe if pets ingest even a small amount of Spurge Laurel.

Despite its potential for causing harm, this plant is still sold in several garden centers around BC, as its fragrant flowers and glossy leaves look great in gardens. It thrives in well-drained soils, and may be found in forest understories.

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