Pretty Poisons in the Yard Series: “Sago-Palm (Cycad)-A Deadly Beauty”

OPAL Score=6 (Male)

Sago-Palm is a cycad, not a palm, but regardless of what its correct classification is, this plant is so DEADLY to pets and children, that in my view, its planting should not be promoted or encouraged by anyone regardless of how pretty it is.  Read below for more information.

Cycads are not true Palms (closed seeded Arecaceae family) but members of the open seeded family Cycadaceae. They are however Deadly to humans and pets when ingested. All parts of this plant contain several potent toxins but the seeds and roots are especially toxic, The seeds are particularly tasty to dogs and just 2 seeds are enough to cause illness signs in a dog. The death rate is high. Within 36 hours of ingestion, dogs present often with vomiting, diarrhoea, salivation, they can then develop bruising, blood in the faeces, very low blood sugar and neurological signs like seizure and coma. Unusually yellow urine or jaundice with other signs of liver failure carries a bad prognosis. Dogs who survive can develop a shrunken fibrotic liver 3-6months later.cycas-revoluta-female-mt-coottha-bot-gard-q-6may11-ram-image-06

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My thanks to Ross Mc Kensie of Yapunyah for the amazing photographic images

If you really insist on planting this deadly plant, consider that you might be at less risk with male cycads because even though all parts of plant are toxic, the female individuals are the only ones producing seeds and it’s usually the seeds, not the leaves, that the dogs eat. The unanswerable question is how to tell the sex of a young cycad plant before it produces cones which is not an easy, if at all possible, feat. However, If you are using the plants in a  low allergen garden the preference is to use the females of plants as the females of most flora tend to be less aero-allergenic than the males. The OPAL aero-allergen risk score is 1 for females but 6 for male plants. My personal view: Just don’t plant these deadly beauties full stop; it is not worth the risk to children and pets.

A separate blog post on actual Palms and other issues in pets will follow next week.