Dr. James Diaz, professor and director of environmental and occupational health sciences at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center School of Public Health, authored “The Ham and Eggs Plant, Lantana Camara”. The article was published online ahead of print in Wilderness and Environmental Medicine.
[Photo: Dr. James Diaz]
About a third of our drugs are derived from plants. Plants are also vitamin-rich food sources. Among the poisonous plants, most cause skin reactions, like poison ivy if touched, or nonfatal nausea and vomiting if ingested. A few plants contain potentially lethal neurotoxins like water hemlock or cardiotoxins like foxglove. Some plants can be highly toxic to animals (including pets) but not to man if ingested, like sago palm and lantana, the topic of this article.
Lantana varieties are popular garden plants that are also known as ham and eggs plants because of the vibrant pink-red and yellow-orange colors of its flowers which attract bees, butterflies, and children. Lantanas are perennials which bloom continuously throughout the warm months of spring through fall. Dr. Diaz, a board-certified medical toxicologist and an expert on poisonous plants and mushrooms, points out the toxins in lantana, long felt to be highly toxic if ingested, are more toxic to animals, especially cattle and horses, than to humans.
Should a child consume a lantana bloom, nausea and vomiting may result and be inconsequential as long as fluids are replaced to avoid dehydration. In conclusion, keep your children away from poison ivy, and your pets away from lantanas and sago palms, and enjoy the colorful blooms of lantanas until winter.