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Re: The ZZ plant (Zamioculcus zamiifolia) is so poisonous it can poison the pot? Can someone provide a source for this claim?

  • Subject: Re: The ZZ plant (Zamioculcus zamiifolia) is so poisonous it can poison the pot? Can someone provide a source for this claim?
  • From: Theodore Held <oppenhauser2001@gmail.com>
  • Date: Mon, 17 May 2010 15:24:43 -0400

Just a quick check on Google ("Zamioculcas" and "poison") did not find anything substantive. As far as I can tell, this appears to be hysteria.
Remember, there is poison, and then there is poison. Establishing what is "poisonous" requires fairly sophisticated science. Then, it is necessary to establish at what level the "poison" will cause some adverse condition. Needless to say, if such a study had ever been done there would be something discoverable on the 'net. Since I don't see anything except hearsay and gossip, my conclusion is that this is unverifiable.
Of course, someone might give it a try on their cat. Make her eat a leaf or two and see what happens. Maybe it will cause severe pain, but not such that results in death. On the other hand, maybe the beast will keel over instantly. In either case we have data and can reliably warn people off.
No cat? Not willing to try an inhuman test? In that case we have to fall back on the experience of numerous hobby growers over the years. Has anyone ever had an adverse reaction? No? If that is true (and I suspect it is true) then we know that Zamioculcas is probably not that bad. It's not like Zamioculcas is the rarest plant in the world. So there is a decent amount of experience without pathological effects. That is my data point. I challenge others to come up with more.
Naturally, we often find that even minute amounts of the billions of substances in the world turn out to have bad effects and it might be that Zamioculcas will turn out to be such a source. But in order to find that out even more research would need to be done. Such might be warranted should something turn up in or on a hobby grower. But it looks like even the preliminary studies have never been done. Accordingly, I think it is safe to say that poisoned pots is a product of a hyperactive imagination. If someone has real data contary to this conclusion I will be more than happy to change my mind.
Ted Held
Research Chemist, retired.

On Sun, May 16, 2010 at 6:23 PM, ExoticRainforest <Steve@exoticrainforest.com> wrote:
The wild claim that the African aroid Zamioculcas zamiifolia is a terribly poisonous plant now finding its way into my mailbox and on some internet plant forums on a regular basis.  The claims include the roots make a ceramic pot so poisonous you should not handle it!  If you know the source of this rumor will you please post it?  If it is based in science, I cannot find it and am growing weary of trying to answer the emails.

I have been collecting scientific articles on calcium oxalate crystals as it relates to aroids for several years and have yet to find any that state it is a poison.  Certainly, it can be very painful to your mouth and throat if eaten in some cases but the substance is found in many foods we all eat.  Julius has written many times about this subject but this rumor appears to be getting out of hand.

In my experience, the "poison" thing is almost totally a myth. For some unknown reason lots of internet sites like to claim all aroids are "deadly poisonous" which has scientifically proved to be bogus as far as I can read. The Chinese began eating aroids over 10,000 years ago and they are eaten today throughout the world including most of SE Asia, India, all of Central and South America as well as the Caribbean. Even the so called "deadly" young leaves of Dieffenbachia are cooked and eaten by the Huao (Waorani) Indian tribe in Ecuador.

 People all over the world eat many aroids all the time and there have been only a couple of scientifically cases of "aroid poison" due to calcium oxalate crystals but those also appear to have other related causes. I guarantee you eat the stuff every single day. The same calcium crystals are found in Parsley, Chives, Cassava, Spinach, Beet leaves, Carrot, Radish, Collards, Bean, Brussels sprouts, Garlic, Lettuce, Watercress, Sweet potato, Turnip, Broccoli, Celery, Eggplant, Cauliflower, Asparagus, Cabbage, Tomato, Pea, Turnip greens, Potato, Onion, Okra, Pepper, Squash, Cucumbers, Corn and other foods!

Now, I may be dead wrong on Zamioculcas zamiifolia but I would like to hear some sound science to back up the claim.  If you know the source of this new rumor or can comment scientifically as to why it should be or should not be stated the beautiful little plant is able to poison its own pot.  Please, would one of our scientists give us some good science on the subject,  I would really like to read more.

I really believe it is time the IAS helps to put out some real science on this subject to curb all the junk "science" on the internet.


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