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When the days are getting shorter in Central Europe and Christmas is approaching, the amaryllis, which is very popular as a houseplant, opens its magnificent flowers. In view of this splendor, the question of toxicity cannot be dismissed out of hand, after all, beauty and poisonous lethality often form an ominous alliance in nature. This also applies to the knight star found in many living rooms - just a few grams can be deadly after consumption.


Real amaryllis / belladonna lily or knight star?

However, the term "Amaryllis" not only stands for the different species of the genus Hippeastrum or Knight's Star that blooms during the winter months, but also for the belladonna lily or Real amaryllis (Amaryllis belladonna). Both are popular houseplants and belong to the same plant family amaryllis (Amaryllidaceae) and look very similar on the outside. However, the belladonna lily comes from tropical South Africa and already blooms in autumn. The plant that shows its flowers in many living rooms around Christmas time, on the other hand, is the knight star, which comes from South America. With regard to their toxicity, however, there are no differences: Both plants, like the closely related narcissus and narcissus family, contain highly toxic substances Amaryllidaceae Alkaloids.

Amaryllis with its large calyxes


Both amaryllis are deadly poisonous

The fascinatingly beautiful funnel-shaped flowers of both hippeastrum and belladonna lily deceive many a lover about the extreme toxicity of the plant. In all parts of the plant are deadly poisonous alkaloids contained, with the highest concentration of poison manifested in the bulbs. Mainly amellin and lycorine act on the nervous system, caranine as well as acetylcaranine and undulatin also appear. A few grams of the plant are sufficient to make strong signs of intoxication to evoke. Two to three grams of onion peel are enough to poison children dangerously. If there is a possibility that children can get at the plant, for example because it is on the windowsill in the living room, non-toxic indoor plants should be preferred.

the toxicity These plants are also shown, among other things, by the fact that belladonna lily extracts were used as a highly effective arrow poison in earlier times.

symptoms of poisoning

With people

The ingredients of all amaryllis plants have a cytotoxic effect, i. H. they damage body cells to the point of their death. Typical physical reactions after poisoning are mainly the following.

  • drowsiness
  • severe nausea
  • vomiting and diarrhea
  • severe dizziness
  • tachycardia
  • sweats

Furthermore, kidney problems up to and including kidney failure can occur, since the toxins attack the kidneys, among other things. In the worst case, the respiratory organs are paralyzed, so the poisoning due to Apnea can be fatal. For this reason, in severe cases, hospitals intubate the patient with amaryllis poisoning and provide artificial respiration.

red amaryllis flower buds

Correct first aid measures save lives

Under no circumstances should you induce vomiting if there are signs of poisoning or if you suspect that your child has just eaten parts of the amaryllis! Vomit can get into the airways and cause additional shortness of breath. Children should also not be given salt water, as is sometimes recommended as a "home remedy" for poisoning or to induce vomiting. Larger amounts of table salt are also toxic to smaller children. Do not give the affected person milk to drink, as the fat it contains only ensures that the fat-soluble toxins more easily absorbed through the intestines.

Instead, remove any that may still be in your mouth plant parts and give that much clear, still water (if necessary from the tap) to drink. See a doctor immediately. Tell them that eating -- possibly unknown -- amounts of a highly toxic amaryllis plant caused the symptoms. If possible, bring the plant or parts of the plant with you. The local poison control center / local poison information center, which is based in all regions of Germany, can also help.

Avoid skin contact: Sap is toxic

Incidentally, the toxins of an amaryllis plant do not only exert their harmful effects as a result of internal ingestion. If the plant sap comes into contact with the unprotected skin, there is a risk of unpleasant consequences skin irritation and swelling to inflammation. For this reason, you should always wear gloves when working around the amaryllis.

This is especially true when the withered leaves and flowers of the knight star are cut back! Also, the cut off ones plant parts Dispose of in such a way that neither children nor pets can touch them. Disposal in an unsecured rubbish bin is therefore not sufficient - some curious small children or even dogs like to open the lid and see what is underneath. It is better to pack the plant parts separately in a bag and immediately in the household waste bin dispose. Compost is also not a suitable disposal site, since wild animals such as birds are also endangered here.

In animals

Effect on pets such as cats and dogs

Cats in particular tend to nibble on indoor plants. Unlike wild animals, pets' natural instincts are severely underdeveloped. Cats and dogs eat plants or parts of plants that are poisonous to them. The knight star is not only potentially deadly poisonous to humans, but also to all pets. Young cats and dogs in particular, as well as animals kept primarily in apartments, are at risk because they are bored, lacking experience and out of control curiosity try from the showy plant. For this reason, amaryllis plants have no place in the vicinity of pets. It is best to cultivate the plant where your darlings have absolutely no access.


Symptoms of poisoning in animals and first aid measures

In pets, eating just a few pieces of starfish can cause cardiac arrhythmia, possibly leading to cardiac arrest.

The following symptoms indicate poisoning:

  • increased salivation
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • drowsiness, staggering
  • convulsions associated with tremors

If you suspect poisoning, take the animal to the hospital immediately vet or to the nearest veterinary clinic and describe your suspicion. Include the name of the plant causing the problem. Do not induce vomiting beforehand. As a rule, the affected animal can be helped quickly.

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