12-15-98

DESPITE THE MYTH, OHIO STATE STUDY PROVED POINSETTIAS NOT TOXIC

	COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Despite a stubborn myth that refuses to 
die, research at Ohio State University has proven that 
poinsettias are not poisonous to humans and are safe to keep in 
the house.

	Poinsettias have long been a colorful holiday tradition, but 
their cheerful image has been sullied somewhat by fears that 
children or others may be at risk if they accidentally eat parts 
of the plant.

	“They probably taste awful, and aren’t easily digested, but 
poinsettias aren’t poisonous,” said Claudio Pasian, assistant 
professor of horticulture and crop science at Ohio State.

	Back in 1971, researchers at Ohio State tested the toxicity 
of poinsettias by adding the plants to a liquid solution, mixing 
it all in a blender, and then feeding the concoction to 55 rats.
	The researchers, writing in the journal Toxicon, concluded 
that rats, “when given extraordinarily high doses of various 
portions of the poinsettia, show no mortality, no symptoms of
toxicity nor any changes in dietary intake or general behavior 
pattern.”

	Still, the myth persists among many people.  “Sometimes 
myths are that way,” Pasian said.  “Reality is irrelevant to 
whether the myths continue.”

	But poinsettias remain popular -- if misunderstood -- 
especially during the holiday season.  While they are associated 
with Christmas, poinsettias can remain in bloom into spring if 
they are properly cared for.  One way people can learn how to 
care for poinsettias -- or any other plant -- is to visit the OSU 
Factsheet Database on the World Wide Web at “http://www.hcs.ohio-
state.edu/factsheet.html”.

	The factsheet database is a search engine that enables 
professional and amateur gardeners to find information on nearly 
any plant or crop they might be growing.

	“We’re similar to search engines like Yahoo or Alta Vista, 
but we focus on  information directly relating to the care and 
growth of plants,” said Tim Rhodus, associate professor of 
horticulture and crop science at Ohio State and Web manager of 
the site.

	“If you search for ‘apple’ in our database, you’ll never get 
linked to Apple computer sites.”

	The database indexes more than 40,000 plant-related pages 
from land grant universities and governmental institutions across 
the United States and Canada.

	A search of the word “poinsettia” turns up 121 pages on 
poinsettia care, diseases, history and styles, among other 
topics.

	“If you want to know about poinsettias or other plants, the 
Factsheet Database makes it easy to find what you’re looking 
for,” Rhodus said.

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Contact:  Claudio Pasian, (614) 292-9941
          Tim Rhodus, (614) 292-3871

Written by Jeff Grabmeier, (614) 292-8457; Grabmeier.1@osu.edu