Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. Occasionally, news stories tell us to beware of poinsettia and mistletoe because they're poisonous. Other stories, especially ones released by the poinsettia industry, counter these claims. The truth lies somewhere between these extremes. Perhaps the biggest threat is a skin inflammation that occurs in some people who work with poinsettias, a reaction resulting from repeated contact with the plants. If you or your child take a bite out of a poinsettia leaf, you're not likely to get sick. I did it just to see what they tasted like, but I didn't swallow. The leaf had a bitter but not terribly obnoxious taste and it left a bitter aftertaste that lasted for some time. Eating a lot of the leaves might make you sick, but who would want to eat them? Berries of mistletoe have also been considered poisonous to humans, although Native Americans sometimes chewed on mistletoe leaves as a remedy for toothache. Many plants produce chemicals that are obnoxious or poisonous to humans and other mammals; it's a way plants protect themselves from being eaten. Different individuals and different animals react in different ways to these chemicals. Keep them safely away from small children and pets but enjoy them for the beauty and tradition they provide.
'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.