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A native of East Asia, Skimmia (bot. Skimmia) is a popular ornamental plant in many gardens. The most widespread species is Skimmia japonica, which can be found wild in the undergrowth of Japanese mountain forests. The plants are particularly popular because of their pretty flowers and the eye-catching fruit decoration, but the Skimmia, which belong to the rue family (bot. Rutaceae), are slightly poisonous. If you have small children, you should rather choose another garden plant.

Is the skimmie poisonous?

Basically are all plant parts the skimmie poisonous. The bright red berries, which decorate the bushes from autumn and are very popular with birds, are particularly tempting for children. But even if the plump, single-seeded berries are well tolerated by garden birds, that does not mean that they are harmless to humans.

All parts of the skimmia contain slightly toxic alkaloids, with these parts of the plant being particularly affected:

  • woody plant parts: Skimmin
  • Leaves: Dictamin, Edulin, Platydosmin, Skimmianin and Sosolin

The berries - botanically they are stone fruits - contain especially the core the toxins, which is why the pea-sized fruits should not be swallowed. Alkaloids are nitrogenous compounds that can cause poisoning in both humans and pets.

notice: Did you know that in most Skimmia only the female plants bear the characteristic red fruits after pollination? Since Skimmia are dioecious, it always takes male and female plants for the berries to develop. The exception is the cultivar 'Skimmie reevesiana', which is hermaphroditic and therefore self-pollinating.


In principle, all four Skimmia species and all varieties are considered slightly poisonous and should therefore only be planted for ornamental purposes. Only the leaves of the Skimmia laureola, which occurs naturally in the Himalayas and in northern China, are cooked in curries and other spicy dishes because of their aroma. This Skimmie also bears small, red berries, but these are also poisonous and therefore not suitable for human consumption.

cats and dogs

Although corresponding information cannot be found in the literature or in Internet sources, cat and dog owners should be careful in this regard. Both pets like to nibble on house and garden plants, although - contrary to all claims - they cannot distinguish between poisonous and non-poisonous plants. So if your pets are often in the garden, you should preferably cultivate non-toxic and therefore completely harmless plant species there.

tip: Guinea pigs, rabbits and other rodents as well as turtles should not come into contact with the poisonous Skimmia or even eat from it. Because of their small size and low body weight, the venom is much stronger here than in larger animals, especially since these pets are generally quite sensitive.

signs of intoxication

The symptoms of poisoning that occur depend on the ingredients of the plant parts consumed and on the amount of poison ingested. In addition to the typical but rather unspecific symptoms such as

  • nausea
  • vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • dizziness and circulatory problems
  • increased sweating
  • fatigue
  • Abdominal pain to cramps

the alkaloids contained in the Skimmia trigger an involuntary twitching of the muscles. Above all, the Skimmianin increases the effect of the body's own adrenaline. This in turn results in the following symptoms:

  • increased heart rate (palpitations to palpitations)
  • at worst, cardiac arrhythmias
  • rising blood sugar level (dangerous for diabetics!)
  • tightness in the chest
  • sweat
  • a headache
  • inner unrest
  • paleness

In addition, the substance makes the organism particularly sensitive to spinal reflexes, which in turn result in muscle tremors as in cramps to express.

First aid

If you suspect Skimmia poisoning, you should

  • Remove any plant parts and fruit that may still be in the mouth
  • keep these plant remains for the doctor
  • have the affected person drink plenty of clear, non-carbonated water
  • bring it into the stable side position in case of circulatory problems
  • contact the poison control center
  • In the event of severe and/or threatening symptoms of poisoning, call the emergency doctor immediately
  • if available, administer activated charcoal (belongs in every medicine cabinet anyway!)

Under no circumstances should the person concerned drink milk or be made to vomit! In principle, however, poisoning by Skimmia caused by oral intake is without major complications and is therefore not very dangerous. The plant is considered to be only slightly poisonous.

tip: There is no single nationwide poison control number as it is affiliated with specific local centers at specific clinics and hospitals. You should therefore always have the number valid for your city or region ready, for example pinned to the bulletin board. This is especially important if you have children.

Skimmia, Skimmia japonica


Roth, Lutz (among others): Toxic plants Plant toxins: Poisonous plants from A - Z, emergency help, occurrence, effect, therapy, allergic and phototoxic reactions. Nikol Verlag, Hamburg. 1994. (book) thus

notice: Please note that this article is by no means a substitute for a doctor's visit. There is no guarantee of the correctness of medical statements.
Detailed information on first aid in the event of poisoning and important information on the poison control centers can be found here.

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