Known as Dumb Cane, this plant is native to the tropical Americas, that is, from Southern Mexico, through Central America, to northern South America and Brazil. The common name refers to the poisoning effect of raphides, which can cause a temporary inability to speak.
This plant has a straight stem, simple and alternate leaves with white spots and flecks, and it is therefore, rather attractive as an indoor plant. Its leaves are green and large. The flowers are white. However, its sap is toxic. Unfortunately, as a lot of people are unaware of this, they keep it in their homes and offices.
To make matters worse, a mother lost her child to this seemingly harmless plant. Namely, her 3- old daughter accidentally swallowed a piece of the plant. Her tongue became huge and she passed away immediately. The mother wants to warn others about the toxicity of some plants, before other innocent lives are lost.
The cells of the plant have needle-shaped crystals called raphides. When a leaf is chewed, the crystals cause a temporary burning sensation and erythema. Both children and pets can experience a lot of unpleasant symptoms after a close contact with the plant like numbing, oral irritation, drooling, and swelling. When mild, the symptoms can be treated with analgesics or medical charcoal.
You need to be extremely cautious when you’re near this plant. Negative effects also happen when you touch the plant by hand and then rub the eyes. This can lead to temporary or permanent loss of sight. The most common signs of Dumb Cane poisoning are burning mouth and throat, nausea, vomiting, swollen and blistered mouth, diarrhea, hoarse voice, eye pain, and damage to the cornea of the eye. If you happen to notice any of the abovementioned symptoms, you need to immediately go to the ER.
The National Poison Control Center is a free service in the USA, available 24/7. After coming in contact with this plant, they recommend:
Immediately washing the part of the skin which came in contact with the plant
Rinsing the eyes
Wiping out the mouth with a washcloth dipped in cold water
Therefore, before you put any kind of plant in your home, make sure you’ve researched it well and eliminated any possible harmful characteristics.