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Poisonous Pepper Plants and Foliage

Updated November 21, 2016

Many gardeners choose plants for specific reasons, be it beautiful foliage or soil compatibility. Even commonly sold plants, however, may be toxic to you and to your pets. Some poisonous pepper plants and foliage may be just waiting to cause trouble around your garden.

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When large amounts of chilli peppers are eaten, they may cause a burning, stinging irritation in the mouth. Because of this reaction, hot peppers (Capsicum annuum), also known as chilli peppers, are considered mildly poisonous to humans when ingested in extremely large quantities. Hot peppers are annuals and are native to tropical regions in America. North Carolina State University says the leaves and fruits of the plant are toxic when ingested, and could create mild dermatitis when they come in contact with the skin. Only large amounts of hot peppers will create a toxic reaction. The Brazilian Peppertree belongs to the same plant group as poison ivy, poison sumac and poison oak. Like its botanical cousins, the foliage of the Brazilian Peppertree may create a skin reaction. Ornamental pepper plants are part of the nightshade plant family, which contains toxins that affect the digestive system. The ornamental pepper plant, also known as the winter cherry, is poisonous to dogs, cats and horses.


Brazilian pepper trees are considered large shrubs or small trees, growing to approximately 30 feet in height. The leaves of the tree are 1 to 2 inches long and reddish in colour. White flower clusters, 2 to 3 inches long, and bright red clusters of fruit grow on the stems. Chilli peppers also grow small flowers, which appear white or green in colour. The fruit of the plants grow with a tapering point at the bottom.


Severe mouth pain and skin irritation may result from eating massive amounts of chilli peppers all at once. In severe cases, vomiting and diarrhoea may also occur. Chilli peppers are mildly poisonous to humans only if very large amounts are ingested. If your cat or dog ingests poisonous pepper plants and foliage, you may noticed excess drooling, diarrhoea and vomiting. Animals may also experience rapid breathing, difficulty walking, seizures and even death. The Brazilian pepper tree is known mostly for causing dermatitis, but some have experienced respiratory stress while the tree is flowering. When ornamental pepper plants are eaten by dogs and cats, respiratory difficulty and shock may result. Gastrointestinal disturbances are also associated with pepper plant poisoning.


Keep animals from eating poisonous pepper plants and foliage by placing them out of reach of your cats and dogs. Plant the peppers in a hard-to-reach location, or put up low fencing to discourage animals. If keeping animals away from poisonous plants proves impossible, simply dig up and discard the toxic peppers in your garden.


If your pet does accidentally eat too much of a poisonous pepper plant, vomiting is the best treatment. Induce vomiting when possible, then contact your veterinarian to apprise them of the situation. The vet may recommend that you bring the animal in for inspection.

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About the Author

K.C. Morgan

K. C. Morgan is a professional freelance writer, with articles and blog posts appearing on dozens of sites. During her years of writing professionally, K. C. has covered a wide range of topics. She has interviewed experts in several fields, including celebrated psychoanalyst Frances Cohen Praver, PhD; television personality and psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig; and entrepreneur Todd Reed.

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