Friday, June 10, 2011

Poisonous Native Plant Perennials Found in Arizona

Arizona has wonderful native plants designed to live and thrive in the heat of the day and the cool evenings. Many of these plants work well in a variety of landscapes. However, some of the native plants of Arizona are poisonous and toxic to pets, cattle, and children. Knowing if the plant you have in your garden is poisonous may help decide if the plant is a keeper or if it should be moved to a better location.

Zinnia acerosa
Common Name: Desert Zinnia, Dwarf Zinnia, Dwarf White Zinnia
Lifespan: Perennial
Description: Growing 4 to 10 inches tall, the desert zinnia has narrow leaves and white or off-white ray flowers with yellow disks. Bloom season is from June through August. It has 5 to 7 flowers per flower head.
Planting Guide: Zinnia acerosa prefers sunny locations and dry rocky acidic soils.
Propagation: Desert zinnia is propagated by seed.
History: Linneas named the “zinnia” genus for Johann Gottfried Zinn, a German botanist, anatomist and ophthalmologist.
Warnings: Leaves and bulbs are poisonous; care should be taken around the plant.
Distribution: Zinnia acerosa is found in AZ, NM, TX and UT.

Thermopsis montana
Common Name: Mountain Goldenbanner, Golden Pea, Buckbean
Lifespan: Perennial
Description: Growing 16 to 32 inches high, there are three-part leaves and clustered flowers. There are fuzzy pods that come after the flowers. Stems are slender and purplish in color. Bloom season is May through August.
Planting Guide: Thermopsis montana prefers good sunny spots in the landscape and dry or wet soils; either rocky or sandy.
Propagation: Mountain goldenbanner is propagated by seed.
History: It has a resemblance to Lupines.
Warnings: This plant is poisonous and contains many quinolizidine alkaloids.
Distribution: Thermopsis montana is found in AZ, ID, CO, MT, NV, MN, OR, UT, WA, and WY.

Astragalus coccineus
Common Name: Scarlet Milkvetch, Scarlet Locoweed
Lifespan: Perennial
Description: Wooly compound leaves and long red flowers adorn the scarlet milkvetch. The flowers are only one of three red varieties of Astragalus found. Flowers bloom between March and June.
Planting Guide: Astragalus coccineus prefers poor well-drained soil and sunny conditions.
Propagation: Scarlet milkvetch is propagated by seed. Direct sow after seed becomes ripe or scarify and store until spring planting.
History: Also known as Huang Qi in herbal remedy books, astragalus is said to boost immune systems, detoxify the body, and improve stress and mental clarity.
            This plant attracts hummingbirds to the landscape.
Warnings: All Astragalus plants are potentially toxic.
Distribution: Astragalus coccineus is found in AZ, CA and NV.


These three plants are all interesting in their histories and ornamental qualities. However, they are all poisonous and should be treated as such. Keep the plants away from pets, children, and cattle.

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