Is The Shamrock Plant Poisonous Or Toxic?

We think of the Shamrock plant as a “lucky plant” but is the shamrock poisonous?

The Shamrock is actually quite toxic. If ingested dogs and cats can suffer a great deal of harm.

leaves of the purple Shamrock Poisonous
Leaves of the Purple Shamrock

There are many different species of ornamental plants known as “shamrock”. All are members of the Oxalis family of plants. 

Many of these plants are offered as good luck plants around St. Patrick’s Day because their leaves have a clover-like look. Interestingly, these members of the Oxalis family are not the shamrocks commonly found in Ireland.

Genuine Irish shamrocks were probably members of the Trifolium family, such as lesser trefoil (Trifolium dubium) or white clover (Trifolium repens). The Oxalis plant is a type of wood sorrel, and comes from some parts of the Americas and also Africa.

The type of Oxalis most commonly sold as shamrock is Oxalis regnellii. This plant features three triangle shaped leaflets per stem. Another is Oxalis triangularis.

In the legend of St. Patrick, the saint used a shamrock as a visual aid to teach the Irish about the Holy Trinity. There are also some types of Oxalis that have five leaflets and small white flowers resembling the flowers of white clover.

Oxalis regnellii grows to a maximum of 6” inches high. The leaves are light-sensitive and fold themselves up in the nighttime. In the morning, they open to greet the sun.

It’s leaves come in several different colors (green, sorrel and deep burgundy) and it presents pretty blooms throughout the autumn and winter and into the springtime. The plant needs a dormant period of rest during the summer months.

Oxalis Are Not Lucky For Pets

Because of their resemblance to the original Irish shamrocks, Oxalis are thought to be lucky; however, they are actually quite toxic and can do a great deal of harm to your cat or dog.

Oxalis plants are also known as:

  • Purple Shamrock
  • Lucky Plant
  • Sorrel Plant
  • Love Plant

By any of these names, these plants are bad luck if ingested. [source]

What Are The Symptoms Of Shamrock Poisoning?

If your pet consumes large quantities of this plant, he or she may experience:

  • Decreased Appetite
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If you believe your pet has eaten your shamrock, you should get in touch with your veterinarian right away, even if symptoms are not immediately apparent.

What Parts Of The Shamrock Oxalis Are Poisonous or Toxic?

It’s important to understand that all parts of Oxalis are toxic because they contain oxalic acid. 

Luckily, this component also gives them a very sour taste which tends to discourage pets and livestock from eating them. Even so, a curious or bored pet may decide to take a walk on the wild side.

In addition to the leaves, the tubers from which these plants grow are also toxic. The roots are quite shallow, so a digging pet will quickly and easily come in contact with them.

It’s also important to understand that your pet would need to consume a fairly large amount of the plant or its tubers to suffer toxic effects. [source]

How To Protect Yourself While Handling The Shamrock

Practice universal precautions when handling any plant. Protect your skin and eyes with long sleeves, gloves and glasses or goggles. Wash up immediately after tending to plants. 

Avoid burning plants unless you are absolutely certain the fumes will not be an irritant. 

Keep houseplants of all sorts out of the reach of kids and pets. Provide protection for potentially toxic plants in the landscape (e.g. fencing, signs, inaccessible planting areas) to prevent accidental contact or ingestion.

JOIN Our FREE Plant Care Newsletter 

By entering your email address you agree to receive a daily email newsletter from Plant Care Today. We'll respect your privacy and unsubscribe at any time.