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WARNING: This Common "House Plant" Can Kill!

Updated on September 24, 2009

Poisonous to Dogs AND Humans: Dieffenbachia, or "Dumb Cane"

It's Called "Dumb Cane" For a Reason....

I learned about this plant by sheer fluke coincidence, and now -- for safety reasons -- I'd like to share it with you.

I was shopping for house plants at my local OSH (Orchard Supply & Hardware), and I bought three plants that looked just lovely! Of course, I didn't know what the heck they were called because most stores just identify them as "foliage" or "house plant" on the sticker. But I bought them anyway.

A few months later, I noticed some nasty little white bugs all over my plants! So then I found myself researching online what kind of plants I had, so I could better identify what kind of bugs I had and how to treat them naturally. That's how I found out that I had bought 1) a golden pothos, 2) a philodendron, and 3) a dieffenbachia (also known as a "dumb cane"). I discovered that the philodendron was poisonous, but luckily it is a hanging plant, so I didn't have to worry about children or dogs getting to it. However, the dumb cane is a floor plant, and it is also very poisonous, which makes it very dangerous that it is on...the floor!

During my research, I read an article that a large poodle died from chewing on a dieffenbachia. The owner (a lady) had a dieffenbachia in her home, and her poodle chewed on it, and next thing the lady knew her poodle was convulsing on the floor. She immediately drove the poodle to the vet, but there was nothing the vet could do, and it died.

As I continued to research, I discovered why the dieffenbachia is nicknamed "dumb cane." Apparently, it was used to punish disobedient slaves back in the days of Virginia plantations (how sad). If a slave misbehaved, the slave master would force the slave to put a piece of dieffenbachia in his/her mouth, and it would cause throat paralysis, and therefore result in permanent loss of voice (or becoming "mute," which is also known as becoming "dumb"). But it doesn't stop there. Throat paralysis is what happens simply from holding a piece of dieffenbachia in your mouth. Imagine if you actually ATE some. It is poisonous, and can cause death.

In conclusion, dieffenbachia is poisonous to both dogs AND humans. You don't want this plant on the floor in your home if you have children or dogs that live there OR visit!

I don't understand why stores keep this plant 1) unidentified, and 2) on the floor of their plant displays! They should know that it is dangerous, and keep it up high out of the reach of children.

After I learned this, I called OSH to ask why they keep such a poisonous plant on the floor, where children can reach it. They said they didn't know that it was so poisonous, and that they would look into it -- but that also parents should prevent their kids from touching things. (I agree, but yeah....right....we all know that parents don't always watch their kids.) And OSH is not the only place that keeps these on the floor. Since learning about dieffenbachia, I have seen them on the floor at Target, Walmart, and Home Depot. They are very commonly sold as "house plants" at many places.

In the end, I donated my dieffenbachia to someone who did not have children or dogs, and I warned them of its toxicity.

Please be aware of this plant and its consequences -- whether you are walking through a plant department with a child, or you have the plant at home. Take care.


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Ladies and gentlemen, Polo has restricted the Dieffenbachia along with other houseplants like African violets and Sansevieria trifasciata, because to lessen small problems. The ban and restriction starts one day after the Poodle passed away.

      The owner (a lady) had a Dieffenbachia in her home, and her poodle chewed on it, and next thing the lady knew her poodle was convulsing on the floor. She immediately drove the poodle to the vet, but there was nothing the vet could do, and it died.

      We believed as we continued to research, We discovered why the Dieffenbachia is nicknamed "dumb cane." Apparently, it was used to punish disobedient slaves back in the days of Virginia plantations (how sad). We believed that if a slave misbehaved, the slave master would force the slave to put a piece of Dieffenbachia in it's mouth, and it would cause throat paralysis, and therefore result in permanent loss of voice (or becoming "mute," which is also known as becoming "dumb"). But it doesn't stop there. Throat paralysis is what happens simply from holding a piece of Dieffenbachia in your mouth.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I just had a toxic brush w dieffenbachia. I tore off a few dead leaves and pushed the toppling, tall branches of a top-heavy diff plant back into place. A short time later, without thoroughly rinsing my hands, I put a small piece of carrot in my mouth. Within a short time, I noticed a cutting, sharp, irritation on my top lip which was slightly puffing. I described it as micro-size razor blades moving over my lip. Not realizing the connection, I started water rinsing, using aloe vera, antiseptic--anything to stop the near-painful sensation. I almost took antihistamine thinking it was a hive or edema. It wasn't until hours later (still feeling some residual lip discomfort even now) that I went back to the high table the plant is on, and another branch had wilted; one branch had broken off on the floor. I instantly connected the problem: dieffenbachia toxicity! I am glad I picked up the fallen branch before the dogs got it!!! (The homeowner here has three tiny doggies, and I had cautioned years ago about this plant's hazards that I had only heard about. But now, with my own first-hand frame of reference, and after much website research, this beautiful "Dumb Cane" plant needs another loving, child-free, furry animal-free home!)

    • profile image


      8 years ago from singapore

      dume cane is a plant that is pioson

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      MY friend had a dumb canes in his house and he put his hand on it and he can't talk he came to school and can't talk please don't aolow your child to put on it 75 house plant can kill

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I had to put sleep my beloved dog due to the damage on her throat , that she stoped eatong food almost a year a half a go. I do not think that I will ever Recover from her death and the fact that I put her sleep! A month later a friend e mailed me an article regarding this damned plant and it made me more sad that I was the cause of my dog's death. I 100% AGREE that this plant SHOULD NOT be for sell.........

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks for the article. I wish I had read it before last weekend. My puppy almost died after chewing a leaf of this plant. It was a question of seconds and I had my little dog lying on the floor with her mouth full of foam. I immediately went to the vet and luckily she survived. But she could have died if I hadn't found a vet so quickly. My advice, if you have kids or pets get rid of this plant.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      For one ur info is sort if correct, dumb cane IS NOT as poisonous as u say, what it will do is it will temperately make a dog,cat,or human mute for approximanty 24 hrs and yes the plant can be fatal but u would have to eat all of a 3ft tall plant,

    • Valerian profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from California

      Thank you all for sharing! :)

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      this is very dangerous children and the old people so keep them away from children and old people

    • Silver Poet profile image

      Silver Poet 

      9 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

      Thank you so much for writing this! I love house plants, but I wonder why something so toxic is sold to the public without a warning. Even household cleaning supplies carry warnings.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Ok so not a light subject but most plants have toxic parts for example common old garden lilies are poisenous to cats and Daffodil bulbs were consumed in WW1 instead of onions causing a lot of problems. Even edible plants have parts that are poisenous, Rhubarb leaves for example yet the stalks we eat. I think its wise to just teach children not to touch, instead of wrapping them in cotton wool. That's how I was brought up and i'm still standing

    • profile image

      ANAND KS 

      10 years ago

      It may not kill toddlers as claimed, please go through Wikipedia. If it can kill then it wouldn't had entered so many houses

      The cells of the Dieffenbachia plant contain needle-shaped calcium oxalate crystals called raphides. If a leaf is chewed, these crystals can cause a temporary burning sensation and erythema. In rare cases, edema of tissues exposed to the plant have been reported. Mastication and ingestion generally result in only mild symptoms.[2] With both children and pets, contact with dieffenbachia (typically from chewing) can cause a host of unpleasant symptoms, including oral irritation, excessive drooling, and localized swelling.[3] However, these effects are rarely life-threatening. In most cases, symptoms are mild, and can be successfully treated with analgesic agents,[4] antihistamines,[5] or medical charcoal.[6] Gastric evacuation or lavage is "seldom"[6] indicated.[4] Jennifer S. Boyle, MD, PharmD, and Christopher P Holstege, MD, note that, "In a large retrospective study of 188 patients with plant oxalate exposure, all cases were determined to be minor and all resolved with minor or no treatment." [4] They also note that, "In patients with exposure to toxic plants, 70% are children younger than 5 years."[4

    • loveofnight profile image


      10 years ago from Baltimore, Maryland

      it may sound sad but this is one of my favorite plants.but i have had them around me for so long that i forgot that they are toxic.having a new grand-son means i do have to pay attention to the things around me......thx

    • The_R profile image


      10 years ago from California

      My mom had one of those when I was growing up. She told us it was poisonous and not to touch it. So we left it alone and ate the other house plants. lol

      BTW, if that dog was eating house plants, it means it was probably having health problems to begin with. Poor dog is likely better off now.

      Good hub. Thanks for sharing.

    • broussardleslie profile image

      Leslie Broussard 

      10 years ago

      Excellent information - thank you for sharing your experience.

    • Luciendasky profile image


      11 years ago from Florence, OR

      I think I had one of those plants!!! Thank you for letting everyone know... I am surprised that they are carried in those stores without the warning!


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