Are Bougainvilleas Poisonous?
Plants are susceptible to a plethora of dangers in their environments. Thus they have adapted and equipped themselves with fantastic defensive mechanisms. All that Bougainvillea did was scrape my hands and arms with its thorns, and I am still intimidated by it. Never underestimate the power of plants.
The primary question of this article is whether or not bougainvilleas are poisonous. The short and simple answer is that the plant is NOT toxic, nor is it recognized by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) List of Toxic Plants. The previous story should make a reader pause and wonder how both can be true.
Poisonous or Not?
If you, your child, or your pets eat some bougainvillea leaves or flowers, they will not experience a toxic reaction. However, I am not a medical doctor, yet eating any amount of plant material would be dangerous. Symptoms would include diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. So do not go about eating bougainvilleas.
If you, your pets try to take some bites of your Bougainvillea, you will want to keep a close eye out because it is likely the thorns of the plant have pierced the inside of their mouth, which is going to be painful and could get worse. The thorns will create minor cuts in the mouth, making it easier for any contaminants to enter the bloodstream. If this does happen, I would recommend seeking medical attention.
For those of us with allergies, we should treat the Bougainvillea as a toxic plant. Because, while the plant matter is non-toxic, the plant does secrete a sap that is similar to poison ivy. This sap and my ill-informed younger self is why I experienced the reaction that I had. While I am not allergic to any food or medicine, I am allergic to all things outdoors, visible and not. Thus, simply reaching through the Bougainvillea to pull weeds sent me into a painful allergic reaction. I am getting itchy just remembering the whole ordeal.
I was lucky that I was, one, around others, and two, not out in the wilderness. Even as an experienced person outdoors, I do not know how I would have handled the situation had I been out hiking. This singular experience is why I tend not to touch any plants now, if at all possible. I even try to keep my dog from spending too much time investigating new plant life.
People across North and South America love the crawling veiny Bougainvillea, and rightfully so. It is a vibrant, hearty plant with aesthetic and practical uses. However, when planting or pruning this species, I would recommend wearing gloves that are not worn out and wearing a long-sleeved shirt. I would recommend this to individuals who do not have a history of allergies, especially those who do have a history of allergies.
I have a short story about dealing with Bougainvillea thorns. One Saturday in high school (2008), I was helping my mother pull weeds out of the flower beds in our front yard. I was just about finished with the side of the house that I was working on when my hands and forearms started to tingle; then, I noticed that I was feeling a little dizzy and drenched in sweat.
Soon my hands and arms were itching more than I ever thought was possible. I mean, I could do nothing but scratch my hands, arms, and sweat. Inside the house, I am telling my dad that something is wrong. I am panicking because my hands are swollen and red, and the itching is becoming painful. But, I am also panicking because I do not know what caused all of this.
However, I am an individual who has lived with severe allergies my whole life and medication that keeps it all under control, so I take some Benadryl, and 20 minutes I am feeling good as new. My mom asked me when I noticed my hands tingling, and we were able to surmise that I had experienced an acute allergic reaction to the thorns of the bougainvillea plant while weeding the flower beds.
I had never experienced such a reaction like that before, but allergies change over time. Still, to this day, I’m not too fond of that area of the yard. Now, I share this story not to brag about my allergies but as a cautionary tale.