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An Itchy Palm: How Fishtail Palms Are Toxic to Children and Pets

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Fishtail palms are prized for their unique appearance. Although there are several species of this palm tree, referred to scientifically as Caryota spp, they all share similar characteristics. With leaves shaped like fishtails, these palms can grace a lawn with their feathery and graceful structure, which is why they are popular as ornamentals.

However, although fishtail palms are popular throughout Australia, they do pose a threat to pets and young children due to their toxicity.

Fishtail Palms Are Toxic

For an adult who is experienced and wearing the right equipment, for example, gloves and thick clothing, fishtail palms pose little threat. However, for unprotected children and pets, fishtail palms are a health hazard.

Fishtail palms produce clusters of berries that hang toward the ground on long stalks. These round berries are green when young but turn red or black as they ripen. Despite their harmless appearance, these berries are toxic. Each one contains minute calcium oxalate crystals that are shaped like spines. When a person encounters these spines, they experience an itchy, burning sensation and dermatitis. Pets and young children are most at risk.

Fishtail Palm Berries Appear Harmless

To a young child, the clusters of berries hanging from a fishtail palm might look anything but toxic. However, if a child picks up those berries, thousands of minute oxalate crystal spines will pierce their skin, causing severe itching and burning that could last days.

Moreover, if a child mistakes a berry for a harmless grape, they may eat the fruit and irritate the sensitive skin of their mouth. Inhaling the spines is also a risk. While fishtail palm berries won't kill, they can leave a child in discomfort for several days. These palm trees are also dangerous to cats and dogs.

Hire an Arborist

If you have one of these trees on your lawn, you should consider replacing it with something less toxic, especially if you have young children or pets. While they may look ordinary, fishtail palm berries can pack a very itchy punch. Unless your lawn is off limits to children and pets, you should think about removing your fishtail palm.

Hire an arborist to remove your fishtail palm tree as soon as you can if you have children or pets at home. An experienced arborist will also be able to advise you on what would make a safer alternative to the fishtail palm. Palms come in many shapes and sizes. Ensure that your palm is both beautiful and safe for children and pets.

For more information, contact your local palm tree removalist today.