Q: Are the berries of dwarf Burford holly poisonous?
A: Auroleus Phillipus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim (known as Paracelsus by his friends) was born in Switzerland in 1493. His work as a physician and pharmacist earned him the name “The Father of Modern Medicine”.
One of Paracelsus’ key observations was that “The dose makes the poison.” In other words, a substance that is harmless in small amounts can be poisonous in large doses.
So it is with holly berries. One berry won’t kill you – but you’d better invite the undertaker to a meal where you serve holly berry pie.
The seed or leaves of few landscape plants are so poisonous as to cause worry. A liriope berry, holly berry or beauty berry seed might cause an upset stomach but would not be likely to kill a child, pet or adult. Some exceptions include castor bean seed, lantana seed and Carolina jessamine leaves, all of which are highly toxic.
The North Carolina Extension Service has information on the poisonous potential of hundreds of landscape plants.
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