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Frequently (and not so frequently) Asked Questions

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BRIEF: Is Oxalis regnellii poisonous?


QUESTION:
I have a shamrock plant which I believe is an . It is a house plant which has triangular leaves which are green on the top and purple underneath. It grows from tubes in the soil and folds up and 'goes to sleep' at night. It occasionally grows small white flower. I have 3 children in my house and would like to know if this plant is toxic. I have not found it on any toxic plant list yet when I was reading under garden sorrel it speaks of it being poisonous because of oxalates. Since oxolates and oxalis sound very similar, I am concerned that my shamrock may too be poisonous.

ANSWER:

The sour, soluble oxylates in Oxalis species would be harmful to livestock if they ate enough to interfere with blood calcium and magnesium homeostasis, but if your kids were to nibble a little, they would be OK. Most other house plants have oxylates in the form of razor sharp, microscopic raphide needles that, together with other toxins cause extreme pain when chewed (Philodendrons, for example), but rarely kill. Best to teach your kids not to eat the foliage of any plant other than what you put on their plate.