Is the String of Pearls Plant Toxic?


The string of pearls is a trailing plant with small rounded leaves that resembles a beaded necklace. This unique succulent is appealing to the eye, and for some pets and little kids, it may appear edible like little candy. What’s happened if your kids and pets ingest them?

The string of pearls is toxic to humans and pets if ingested and can cause skin damage if in contact with its sap. It can cause minor digestive illnesses such as vomiting and diarrhea when ingested. The poisonous substance in the plant’s sap called pyrrolizidine alkaloid can cause dermatitis if in contact with the skin.

This odd-looking succulent has poisonous sap harmful to humans and pets alike. Let’s discover more about the toxicity and safe handling of the string of pearls.

What Is String Of Pearls Intoxication?

The string of pearls sap can cause serious irritations that can be harmful to humans and animals. Toxicity is minor in low dosage but can cause stomach discomforts like vomiting and nausea. Despite not causing serious issues, the exposure of the skin to the toxic juice will lead to skin rashes and even skin irritation.

String of Pearls Intoxication – Infographic

The string of pearls is succulent with green pea-shaped leaves on strand-like stems that hang and grow up to 5ft long. The plant is attractive to look at, but they are poisonous to your kids and pets, so keep them out of reach.

Human Toxicity

The string of pearls is hazardous to humans, especially to children. The University of California researched the string of pearls’ toxicity and classified the plant under toxicity classes 2 and 4.

Plants under toxicity class 2 or oral toxicity are not lethal but may cause minor illnesses such as nausea and diarrhea when consumed.

Classification 4 is dermal toxicity, which happens when the skin contacts the plant’s sap and causes dermatitis. Exposure to toxic plant sap may cause skin inflammation and skin rashes that burn or itch.

Animal Toxicity

Plants that are harmful to humans are often poisonous to animals as well. According to Cornell University, almost all Senecio species are toxic to certain pets and livestock.

When pets accidentally ingest a string of pearls, they may exhibit vomiting, drooling, upset stomach, and weak muscles. Irritation around the mouth is also possible due to the sap that gets in contact with the sensitive mouth’s inner parts.

A string of pearls is harmful to pets such as dogs, cats, turtles, and birds. However, some herbivores like sheep, goats, rabbits, and Guinea pigs are highly resistant to the plant. The toxic substance in the plant causes adverse effects to these animals. Do you have other plants at home, and you’re not sure if it is poisonous? Check out the guide to poisonous plants in the complete list of plant toxicity from the American Society for the Prevention Of Cruelty to Animals.

What Makes The String Of Pearls Poisonous?

Senecio species, including the string of pearls, produce harmful substances called Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids found in the plant sap. This compound that occurs mainly in plants is toxic to humans and animals.

In his research study about Plants containing Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids – Toxicity and Problems, Helmut Weidenfield said that Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids (PA) produced by Senecio species are ester alkaloids that are toxic to humans and animals. Although there is no evidence that the alkaloids build in body tissues, their effects develop with time, even at low doses.

A study with rats by the South African Veterinary Association was conducted to confirm the harmful effect of the sap of Senecio species. Each 4 rats (8-9 weeks) was given different doses of plant extract, from 0.049mg/g body weight to 0.25mg/g b.w. The rat with the lowest dose didn’t exhibit any clinical observations. However, the rats receiving higher intake showed signs of weakness and ill-health.

How Much String of Pearls Need To Be Ingested To Be Considered Toxic?

The specific amount that is considered toxic for humans is not known. However, the higher the amount ingested and the lower the body weight, the higher chances of intoxication and illness. Even small doses taken over time might be harmful to one’s health, especially for children and the elderly.

After oral intake, PAs are readily absorbed from the digestive tract and only become dangerous after being converted to hazardous metabolites in the liver. Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids in the string of pearls have low acute toxicity. Still, with extended exposure, they go through a metabolic toxication process in the liver, the toxicity’s first organ to be affected.

Symptoms of String Of Pearls Poisoning

The signs of intoxication depend on how the victim is exposed to the harmful sap. The string of pearls is hazardous to the skin and digestive system in pets and humans alike. In humans, the degree of intoxication depends on allergic sensitivity, especially in the skin.

Symptoms of poisoning in humans are:

  • Itchy skin with a slight burning feel
  • Skin rashes or redness
  • Skin irritation accompanied with painful skin
  • Stomach ache/ Diarrhea
  • Vomiting and Nausea

While symptoms of poisoning in pets are:

  • Irritation to the mouth
  • Itching around the mouth
  • Restlessness/ non-stop rubbing of the face
  • Hypersalivation/ drooling
  • Diarrhea with vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Excessive sleeping

Any of these symptoms should not be taken lightly, and medical treatment must be administered in case of oral poisoning. Although the hazard of swallowing the string of pearls or coming into contact with its sap is likely to be mild, it is nevertheless wise to keep them away from innocent dogs or youngsters.

What To Do In Case Of String of Pearls Intoxication?

In case of skin contact with the string of pearls sap, thoroughly wash the exposed skin with soap and water. If a rash develops after washing, apply anti-rash lotion to soothe the itchiness. However, in severe dermatitis, contact a physician for proper medication. When a kid ingests a string of pearls, it is paramount to get help immediately from the Poison Control Center or call the child’s pediatrician for medical treatment.

If your pet is exposed to the toxic sap, wash them with soap and water to remove any fluid traces. But if you suspected that the string of pearls had been ingested, bring your pet immediately to the veterinarian to aid in diagnosis and physical examination.

In any event, you should avoid using any home treatments and seek medical advice from a veterinarian as it is the best thing to do in case of poisoning.

Safe Handling Of Toxic String Of Pearls

The string of pearls inside a home should be placed in an area that is not accessible to either toddlers and pets. Ideally, hanging them in a spot high enough is an excellent solution. Once the tips grow low enough, they should be trimmed.

Securing the safety and well-being of our children and pets is our responsibility. They are not aware of what’s best for them, and as a result, they do harmful things out of curiosity. Therefore, keep toxic plants inaccessible to them to avoid unwanted situations from happening.

Opt to grow non-toxic plants at home for full precaution and avoid risk. Make sure that any plants you keep in your house are not poisonous if you have small children and pets. There are lots of pet and child-friendly succulents such as echeverias, sedums, and haworthias.

Takeaways

  • The string of pearls is toxic to pets and humans. Kids are more prone to plant poisoning.
  • Signs of skin intoxication include skin rash, irritation, itchiness, and burning feel. While symptoms of oral intoxication are vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy in pets, and drooling.
  • It is wise to identify the toxicity of the plants that we bring inside our home. Choose to grow non-toxic houseplants to avoid poison accidents.

Sources

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Esther

Esther is the self-proclaimed cactusholic :D of the team. She owns a cacti shop with hundreds of plants that she takes care of. Esther has many years of experience in growing and caring for drought-resistant plants like cacti and succulents.

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