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When it comes to the so-called coral cactus (or “bulrush cactus”) of the genus Rhipsalis, many fans of exotic-looking indoor plants wonder whether it is a poisonous and therefore potentially dangerous plant species. This question is absolutely justified and should always be discussed with great urgency in the case of indoor plants if the respective premises are also inhabited by children and one or the other house cat.


Does the coral cactus contain toxins?

While the coral cacti are not necessarily suitable for consumption in any way, they do not contain any toxins worth mentioning. Botanists consider the plant to be "probably harmless": This means that the relatively few studies that have been carried out on this plant species so far have not found any evidence of toxic ingredients. This means that the coral cactus is not officially considered poisonous, but it should still be treated with a healthy respect and should never be used for consumption. This applies to the following, particularly popular subspecies:

  • hips cassutha
  • hips cereuscula
  • hips baccifera
  • hips crispata
  • hips houlletiana

The reputation of the Rhipsalis cacti as poisonous houseplants

In the past, warnings were given in some places about this plant species and the possible toxicity of the elongated shoots was pointed out. As already mentioned, there is no evidence for toxic ingredients. However, the assumption is that the danger of the Rhipsalis cacti is due to the visual similarity to the euphorbia. Finally, there are some species of the so-called spurge family that look relatively similar to the coral cacti and are actually poisonous to a serious extent.

Bulrush cactus, Rhipsalis baccifera

Play it safe with the coral cactus

When buying houseplants from a specialist shop, you can usually assume that you will receive a correctly identified and labeled plant. Whether the purchased specimen is actually a representative of the coral cacti and not a spurge plant can be checked quickly and easily: As the name suggests, spurge plants immediately secrete a milky plant sap if they are cut or have broken off plant parts. In contrast, the sap of the coral cacti is clear. It is therefore sufficient if a cut is made at one point on the plant with rubber gloves and a sharp knife. If only transparent plant sap emerges afterwards, it is not a poisonous spurge plant, but actually a relatively harmless coral cactus.

risks for cats

Keeping cats in an apartment with Rhipsalis cacti

Especially when cats are kept purely as indoor cats, they often attack all indoor plants on the windowsill. If a cat occasionally gnaws on the coral cacti in the apartment, this usually does not harm the animals. Of course, tastier alternatives such as cat grass cultivated especially for this purpose can also be offered, so that the cat with its craving for green food components does not have to pounce on the coral cacti.

risks for children

Precautions for children in the home

Even if the coral cacti do not pose any danger to children: As soon as children are regularly left unsupervised in a room, only absolutely safe, harmless plants should be placed there at a height that the children can reach. According to the current state of knowledge, this also applies to coral cacti - but it can't hurt to place such a plant out of reach of younger family members in case of doubt.

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