toxic flowers at market?

diggerdee zone 6 CTMarch 31, 2006

Hi!

For those of you who sell at market, how do you handle (not physically, but sales-wise) flowers that may be toxic or be irritants? For instance, if you sell a bouquet with say, foxgloves or monkshood, do you tell the customer to be careful? Do you not say anything? Or do you avoid all risk and not sell any flower that may be toxic?

It seems to be a fine line between educating a customer and scaring her/him off. I think most gardeners know about toxic plants and realize that with common sense (don't eat your foxgloves, lol) that we can live in harmony with toxic flowers. But some people, especially non-gardeners, get very scared.

I'm just wondering how to approach this in the upcoming season, and would appreciate any input.

Thank you,

:)

Dee

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bluestarrgallery(zone 7 GA)

Dee, I have chosen not to grow toxic flowers. I don't sell at market but do sell fresh and dried flowers and arrangements and I don't want the risk of a child or pet getting something they don't need. I just figure there are plenty of things I can grow that don't have that risk.

But when I looked at a list of plants not suitable there were some plants I never would have guessed were potentially poisonous - like the oak - I thought Native Americans ate oak acorns - seems like I remember they had to prepare them some how - maybe that releases the toxins? I know deer eat them.

Linda

Here is a link that might be useful: Poisonous Plants

    Bookmark   April 1, 2006 at 12:40PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Thank for the link Linda, and for your reply. I've been thinking of not growing toxic plants, and for the most part the cut flowers I have planned are non-toxic. I do sell some plants though, also, and was wondering how to deal with these.

If anyone else would like to chime in and give me her/his opinion, I'd appreciate it!

:)
Dee

    Bookmark   April 3, 2006 at 2:01PM
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Jeanne_in_Idaho(z5 N.Idaho)

I warned anybody who was going to buy a bouquet with foxgloves in it that they are highly poisonous, and that if they were going to have any small children in their house, I recommended getting a different bouquet, or not buy from me if they didn't like any other. I always had plenty without foxgloves to choose from. There's no way I'll risk some small child's life to make a sale. Also, I've always tried to talk friends who have small children out of growing foxgloves. The trouble with foxgloves is that they are toxic to the rhythm conduction system of the heart. By the time the child is having any symptoms that might alarm a parent, they might not have time to get to an E.R. - and even then, if the parents don't know the kid ate foxgloves, the kid might die before somebody hits on the diagnosis - and there is only one effective treatment, specific only to foxgloves (digitalis), that the doc isn't going to order unless digitalis poisoning is suspected.

The rest of the toxic flowers aren't that toxic. One foxglove flower can kill a small child, but most others might give them a tummyache or a passing small illness, unless consumed in large amounts. I warned customers that monkshood are somewhat toxic, but not as bad as foxgloves. I think the warnings go a little overboard sometimes. For instance, sweet peas sometimes carry toxic warnings. However, the only times people have actually gotten sick (and died, I think) of lathyrosis was when people consumed larger amounts of the peas themselves as in times of famine. You'd have to be starving - they taste AWFUL! The little kid who idly puts one in his mouth isn't going to have any symptoms and isn't going to repeat the experiment once he tastes it.

Brugmansia are supposedly pretty toxic, but I can't grow them here, nor do I know whether I'd ever try to work one into a bouquet - they're large and very pendant. I don't think I'd grow those if I had children around, though.

Jeanne

    Bookmark   April 4, 2006 at 11:12PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

So Jeanne, what you are saying is that you use word-of-mouth? You don't have any written material at your table, or label on the bouquet itself? You just tell someone when they pick up the bouquet if it contains something toxic?

What I'm looking for here is not necessarily which are toxic or how toxic they are, but how cut flower sellers deal with the issue at market. I was just curious as to whether something like labeling might scare people off, and trying to juggle this with my feeling of obligation to let people know what they are buying, and I wanted to see how others handled the situation, even if is by just avoiding selling toxic flowers.

Thanks for your input!
:)
Dee

    Bookmark   April 5, 2006 at 12:42PM
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flowerfarmer

Did you know that the greatest concentration of toxin occurs in the leaves of foxglove?

It is really pretty simple, Dee. What it boils down to is just plain common sense when selling this particular flower at market. We don't have any written material; and, we don't label the bouquets.

We are the largest flower farmer at our markets; and, this will be our eighth season. We sell foxglove in our bouquets during the month of June. We also have bouquets without the foxglove. Most of our customer base is aware that certain flowers may be toxic. Therefore, we don't grill every customer regarding children in the home. If, however, a customer asks what the flower (foxglove) is in a certain bouquet then we have to assume they are not familiar with foxglove. At this point, it becomes a judgement call.

Last season a young mother with a baby about 6-8 months (and obviously going through that oral stage) in one of those Gerry carriers on her back was just taken with the foxglove. She thought they were just beautiful. My son, who worked for us last season, explained to her that in good conscience he could not let her buy the foxglove. He made her an extra special and beautiful bouquet without the foxglove. We'd like to think she appreciated this. It was the right thing to do.

Hope this helps.

Trish

    Bookmark   April 5, 2006 at 7:24PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Thank you!

:)
Dee

    Bookmark   April 5, 2006 at 10:04PM
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Jeanne_in_Idaho(z5 N.Idaho)

Yes, I always just told them, didn't have anything written. It was a hard and fast rule, though. No matter how busy I was and no matter how many people were in line, I always told them. And I always had plenty of bouquets without foxgloves.

I'm a nurse and have worked mostly in critical care units, but also in E.R. Those are the locations where digitalis toxicity usually shows up. Therefore, it's second nature to me to warn anybody of the danger, no matter what. I always tried to help them to pick a different bouquet, but if they didn't like any others and it meant they wouldn't buy from me, fine. Like flowerfarmer's son, I (nicely) refused to sell them to anybody who had small children at home. Once a lady decided against a bouquet with foxgloves because of her cat. Her cat had never eaten flowers before, but I guess she was afraid he might start. Whatever!

Here's a little medical trivia. Digitalis (foxglove) has been used by traditional medicine women and men for centuries. In England, it was usually brewed as a tea for people with dropsy - that's the condition of swollen feet and lower legs that we now call chronic congestive heart failure. And guess what one of the most popular drugs for congestive heart failure STILL is: Digoxin! That's a synthesized version of digitalis. Now, DON'T go brewing yourself digitalis tea at home. If you get the dose wrong, you can die.

flowerfarmer, your son sounds like a real asset at market. Somebody must have raised him right...

Jeanne

    Bookmark   April 6, 2006 at 11:26AM
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flowerfarmer

Thank you for the kind words, Jeanne. The son who worked on the farm last season is currently in the military, and stationed in a far away land. We miss him terribly. Anyway, after a particularly difficult week for us, your thoughful words were much appeciated. Sniff, sniff.....

Trish

    Bookmark   April 10, 2006 at 8:46AM
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