Cut flowers are elegant decorating elements, but many flowers are poisonous. While adults and older children are unlikely to sample the floral decor, people with small children, cats or dogs should be alert to possible poisons in their floral arrangements.
Many flowers that come from shrubs and trees are poisonous to people and animals. Azalea and rhododendron flowers, especially the nectar, can be fatal, as can hydrangea and oleander. Flowers from bulbs or corms, including daffodil, narcissus and snowdrop, may cause serious illness. Many lilies, including lily of the valley, calla lily and Peruvian lily (Alstroemeria), are toxic.
Some cut flowers that aren't toxic to people can be dangerous for cats or dogs. For example, Easter and Stargazer lilies are toxic to cats. Gardenias and gladioli are toxic to cats and dogs.
Several common cut flowers are lethal. Hellebores (including the Christmas rose) and foxglove affect heart function. Other flowers, such as poinsettia and ranunculus, may cause skin irritation or contact dermatitis. In addition, any flower purchased from a florist may be treated with chemicals that make it unsafe to eat, even if it's an edible species.
Some toxic flowers are related to, or easily confused with, edible species. The wisteria family, for example, includes edible flowers and highly toxic ones. Poisonous sweet peas are related to edible peas. Consult an expert or contact your local poison control centre if there's any question about a flower that you've eaten.