A member of the Tea family, camellia (Camellia japonica) is a versatile evergreen shrub appreciated by gardeners for its generous display of rose-like blooms. Luckily for camellia lovers, no parts of the plant, including the flower buds, are known to be poisonous. Nonetheless, camellia is not edible and should not be eaten.
The Indiana Poison Center lists camellia as nontoxic. If you have concerns about the toxicity of camellia, or if someone in your household has ingested a piece of the plant, contact the American Association of Poison Control Centers' free, 24-hour Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222. The ASPCA also lists camellias as nontoxic to pets including dogs, cats and horses. If your pet ingests part of a camellia, call your local veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. A fee may apply.
Considerations And Concerns
Toxicity information is based on the assumption that the amount ingested is small, according to the Indian Poison Center, therefore ingesting large amounts may result in poisoning symptoms. Mild toxicity is defined as non-life-threatening symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, diarrhea or skin rashes, while moderate toxicity includes hallucinations and severe stomach or skin irritation. Severe toxicity includes life-threatening symptoms such as seizures, breathing difficulty, irregular heartbeat or paralysis. Also, all nontoxic plants can still pose a choking hazard to children and pets, especially something the size and shape of a camellia bud.
Growing Healthy Camellias
A native of China, the camellia may be grown in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 to 9. The shrub prefers partial shade, though it will thrive in sunnier conditions in the cooler end of its range. Camellia requires an acidic soil irrigated on a regular basis. Mulch to help retain moisture in the soil and suppress competitive weeds. The shrub grows well in containers and may be used to to brighten the space under a canopy of taller trees.
Warning: Poisonous Lookalikes
Oleander (Nerium oleander) is a common ornamental evergreen shrub that also boasts large, showy flowers in shades of white, pink and magenta. Unlike camellia however, all parts of the oleander are severely toxic. Poisoning symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, irregular heartbeat and bloody diarrhea. In large enough amounts, ingesting oleander may be fatal. The University of Florida Extension warns against growing the shrub where small children might have access to it. Oleander can be found in USDA zones 9A to 11, thriving in full sunlight and well-draining, moist soil.
- AAPCC: American Association of Poison Control Centers
- Indiana Poison Center: A Guide to Poisonous & Non-Poisonous Plants in Indiana
- ASPCA: Common Camellia
- Aggie Horticulture: Common Poisonous Plants and Plant Parts
- North Carolina State University: Nerium Oleander
- University of Florida Extension: Nerium Oleander: Oleander
- Floridata: Camellia Japonica
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