Euphorbia: everything you need to know about the poisonous plant that’s probably growing in your garden

Gardening is a beloved pastime for many people across the UK, especially when weather permits.

Thursday, 22nd August 2019, 4:16 pm
Have you come across this plant before? (Photo: RHS)
Have you come across this plant before? (Photo: RHS)

But are you aware of the potentially dangerous plants that could be flowering in your garden?

With Homes under the Hammer star Martin Roberts having been admitted to hospital after coming into contact with the plant, this is everything you need to know.


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Have you come across this plant before? (Photo: RHS)

Categorised as a flowering plant in the spurge family, euphorbia is labelled as “poisonous” and a “skin and eye irritant” by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).

In the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology, it says: “The milky sap or latex of Euphorbia plant is highly toxic and an irritant to the skin and eye.”

It goes on to say that it “may cause intense inflammation of the skin and the eye”.

It recommends that people who handle euphorbia plants “should wear eye protection”, as well as gloves to protect against the toxic nature of the plant.

What happens if you come into contact with it

Euphorbia has developed a toxic sap as a deterrent to herbivores, and will produce the sap if distributed, like damaging the plant. If you get the sap on your hands, it can cause painful inflammation.

Alys Fowler, horticulturist, says: “Euphorbia sap causes skin to become photosensitive: so, if you handle it with bare skin in the sun, it can cause blisters.”

If you get sap on your skin, you should wash the area thoroughly with soap and water. If the sap becomes congealed on the skin, it’s no longer soluble in water and should instead be removed with soap or milk.

According to the guide of poisonous plants by Colorado State University, should the sap get into your eyes, it can cause conjunctivitis and even result in blindness.

Conjunctivitis is also known as red or pink eye and usually affects both eyes. The NHS says the symptoms from conjunctivitis include:

- Bloodshot eyes

- A burning feeling, or eyes that feel gritty

- Pus in the eyes that sticks to lashes

- Itching

- Watering