SNOW-ON-THE-MOUNTAIN (EUPHORBIA MARGINATA)
Snow-on-the-mountain is a common garden ornamental. It is also often seen about old house sites and overgrown gardens, thriving without cultivation.
Ingestion of its leaves causes intense burning of the mouth, throat, and stomach, uncontrollable salivation, and sometimes, more serious symptoms. Some people find casual handling causes skin irritation as well. It’s not a bad idea to wear gloves when tending these plants in the garden.
All parts of the plant that contain sap, though the sap itself is most toxic. Even dried plant materials retain their poisonous properties.
Volatile oils, resins, alkaloids, and glycosides: quite a cocktail of bad stuff.
TYPICAL POISONING SCENARIO
Children and others sometimes mistake the seedpods, which resemble capers, for the edible fruit of other plants. Children have been fatally poisoned by sun spurge seeds, for example. Another possibility is medical abuse; there is a case on record in which a woman used snow-on-the-mountain as an abortive, with fatal results. Luckily, in most species, the sap tastes so bitter that few victims persist in eating these plants long enough to be seriously affected.
All spurges cause vomiting, nausea, and/or diarrhea if they are eaten. If that’s not enough to keep you away, consider that handling some species, such as crown of thorns and poinsettia, can cause skin rashes, blistering, and eye irritation (remember your mother telling you, “Don’t rub your eyes with those dirty fingers”?). High doses result in intense burning of the mouth, throat, and stomach; uncontrollable salivation; convulsions; and sometimes, coma and death. So, grow the pretty plants in your house or garden, but wear gloves to prune them and discourage the cat from trying a bit of salad, please.
SNOW-ON-THE-MOUNTAIN POISON INFORMATION
Resins and Volatile Oils
Resins and volatile oils are derived mostly from hydrocarbons—chemicals composed of hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen. This group of poisons is very diverse.