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Monday, November 1, 2010 - 6:27am

Kids Face Fewer Risks From Common Ornamental Flower Than Thought

I'd always sort of liked these colorful powder-puff flowers that I learned only today are called Lantana camara by those in the know.

As pretty as the decorative shrubs can be, they're not the top choice to put in yards overrun with little kids out of concern that parts of the plants, if eaten, could prove poisonous. The plants have damaged the livers of animals that grazed upon them.

But a study just published by the journal Pediatrics finds the worries may be overdone. A review of more than 600 cases of kids eating lantana didn't find evidence of serious poisoning.

Most people who ate parts of the plants had no symptoms, the researchers wrote.

Vomiting, stomach pain and agitation were the most frequently reported problems. But even those symptoms weren't all that common, just 30 cases involved vomiting, for instance. None of the problems were life-threatening.

The plants' bad rap is tied mostly to unripe berries, which have been thought to be fairly nasty yet somehow appealing to kids. But the researchers' look at cases reported to the California Poison Control System didn't find significantly more trouble with unripe berries.

So, while it's still probably not a hot idea for children (or adults) to eat any part of the lantana plants. If it happens, it's not likely to cause serious health trouble. [Copyright 2010 National Public Radio]