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Tuesday - August 25, 2009

From: Anna Maria, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: Are palm leaves poisonous?
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I live in a second story house surronded by various types of palm trees on the west coast of Florida. My 1 year old son crawls on the decks and tries to taste all of the palm leaves that sneak through. I'm concerned for the fact that they could be poisonous. Can you tell me which ones to look out for? Should I have them all cut back? Thanks.


Mr. Smarty Plants checked the following toxic plant databases and could find no species of palm in the Family Arecaceae (Palm Family) listed in any of these:

Poisonous Plants of North Carolina

Cornell University Plants Poisonous to Livestock

Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System

University of Pennsylvania's Poisonous Plants

Texas Toxic Plant Database

The Botanical Dermatology Database (BoDD), however, lists several species of the palm family as having skin irritants.  I'm not sure which palm you have (you can see a list of palms observed in Florida from the Central Florida Palm & Cycad Society), but it doesn't appear that any of the palms would be poisonous to eat.  Many of the palms on the list from the Central Florida Palm & Cycad Society are not native to Florida and North America.  The palms native to Florida are listed below and only one of them, Sabal palmetto (cabbage palmetto), is in the BoDD list of palms that have skin irritants. 

That said, however, it is probably not a good idea for your baby to chew on the leaves of the palms.  If it is at all possible, I would suggest that you trim the palm leaves so that they can't be reached by your baby as he crawls on the deck. Skin irritants, if they are in the palm leaves, are probably not a good thing for a baby to ingest.

Palms native to Florida:

Acoelorraphe wrightii (Everglades palm)

Coccothrinax argentata (Florida silver palm)

Rhapidophyllum hystrix (needle palm)

Roystonea elata (Florida royal palm)

Sabal etonia (scrub palmetto)

Sabal minor (dwarf palmetto)

Sabal palmetto (cabbage palmetto)

Serenoa repens (saw palmetto)

Rhapidophyllum hystrix

Sabal minor

Sabal palmetto

Serenoa repens




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