The Christmas poinsettia (euphorbia pulcherrima) has been falsely accused of being a highly toxic ornamental plant to humans for nearly 75 years. The story says that in 1919 the 2-year old child of an Army officer stationed in Hawaii died from eating a poinsettia bract (leaf). There was never any medical documentation to back up this story.

In 1975 the Consumer Product Safety Commission was petitioned by a citizen who demanded that poinsettias carry caution labels when sold to the public. After reviewing all available data concerning the poinsettia plant, the Commission denied the petition.

Research was conducted by Robert P. Stone and W. J. Collins of the Ohio State University to try and find out just how toxic the poinsettia really was if ingested. Their test with rats showed that even with high doses of various portions of the poinsettia there were zero signs of toxicity or any changes in dietary or behavioral patterns.

The Poisindex Information Service states that a 50 pound child would have to eat 500 to 600 leaves just to equal experimental doses and that at those levels there is still no toxicity. So enjoy your poinsettia without fear for your children or pets and have a safe and joyful holiday season.

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