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Is my Clivia poisonous to pets?

I have heard this question raised a number of times lately as people become more aware of the dangers of lilies with cats. Many people think of Clivia as a lily, and it is sometimes known as the Bush Lily or Flame Lily. As the owner of a cat and a dog, I was also concerned about this issue, so decided to conduct some research.

Clivia are from the Amaryllidaceae family which is well-known for containing a number of alkaloids including a crystalline alkaloid called lycorine which is toxic to humans and pets. The toxin has an emetic effect, resulting in nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, salivation and diarrhea when only a small quantity is ingested. It is extremely rare for a pet to ingest a large enough quantity to cause life threatening toxicosis as the vomiting symptoms occur quite soon after ingesting parts of the plant. All parts of the Clivia contain lycorine but the highest concentrate is found in the berries and the base.

Many ornamental bulbs including daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and autumn crocus also contain alkaloids that are toxic if eaten. Dogs have been known to dig up and consume newly planted bulbs, particularly if Blood and Bone or a similar fertiliser has been used. In bulbous plants, the concentration of toxins is in the bulb and ingestion of the bulb is more harmful than ingestion of foliage. Interesting is that during World War II in Holland, people ate tulip bulbs as they were starving. Reports are that they ate parts of the bulb, removing the centre part as it is the poisonous section.

The toxicity of Clivia plants is not to be confused with members of the Liliaceae or Hemerocallis family (true lilies) which can cause renal failure in cats. True lilies are very toxic and even consuming less than one leaf, licking the water from a vase, or a small amount of pollen can lead to severe toxicosis and even death in cats.  Cats are unique in their susceptibility to lilies. Dogs who have ingested lilies are known to suffer from minor digestive upsets but not renal failure. Lilies known to cause kidney failure in cats include: (Easter lily) Lilium longiflorum, (Tiger lily) Lilium tigrinum, (Rubrum) Lilium speciosum, (Japanese show lily) Lilium lancifolium (Stargazer lily) Lilium oreintalis, (Daylily) Hemerocallis species.

A number of other family groups have a low toxicity level such as Philodendrons, Calla lilies and Peace lilies. They contain oxalic acid which hurts the mouth and throat, so the pet is not likely to eat large amounts.

If you own cats or dogs, it is advisable to take steps to ensure their safety around plants.

  • Before purchasing indoor plants, research the botanical name and ensure the plant is not harmful to cats or dogs.
  • Do not purchase lilies as cut flowers or bring a pot of flowering lilies into the house if you own a cat.
  • If you wish to use Blood and Bone or Dynamic Lifter in your garden, keep a close watch on the behaviour of your dog. You may have to restrain the dog for a few days.
  • If you become aware of your dog digging in the garden, ensure there are not toxic plants in the immediate area or fence off any plants you are concerned about.
  • If you witness these symptoms from your pet or more serious symptoms such as seizures, paralysis or cardiac arrhythmias, consult a veterinary immediately.


The plants listed below are known to be toxic to pets if parts are ingested. This list is not complete and does not state whether the toxic level is low, medium or high risk.

Allium ampeloprasum (Leek) Allium cepa (Onion)


Allium sativum (Garlic)


Allium schoenoprasum (Chives)


Aloe barbadensis, Aloe vera (Aloe Vera)


Amaryllis sp. (Belladonna lily)


Andromeda Japonica (Lily of the Valley)


Araucaria heterophylla (Norfolk Pine)


Asparagus densiflorus cv sprengeri (Asparagus fern, lace fern)


Begonia spp. (Begonia)


Brunsfelsia spp. (Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow)


Buxus sp. (Box hedge)


Caladium hortulanum, Alocasia spp. Colocasia esculenta (Elephant’s Ears)


Chrysanthemum spp. (Chrysanthemum, Daisy)


Citrus aurantifolia (Lime)


Citrus limonia (Lemon)


Citrus paradisii (Grapefruit)


Citrus sinensis (Orange)


Clematis sp. (Clematis)


Colchium autumnale (autumn crocus)


Crassula arborescens, Crassula argentea (Jade plant)


Cyclamen spp (Cyclamen)


Dahlia spp. (Dahlia)


Delphinium spp. (Delphinium)


Dianthus caryophyllus (Carnation, Dianthus)


Digitalis purpurea (Foxglove)


Dracaena fragrans, Dracaena spp. Dracaena marginate, Ipomoea batatas (Dracaena)


Dracaena deremensis, tradescantia multiflora (Bridal Veil)


Erigeron speciosus (Seaside Daisy)


Eucalyptus spp (Eucalytptus)


Euphorbia pulcherrima (Pointsietta)


Ficus benjamina (Fig)


Gardenia jasminoides  (Gardenia)


Gladiolus spp. (Gladiola)


Gypsophila elegans (Baby’s breath)


Helleborus niger (Hellebore)


Hemerocallis spp. (Day lily)


Hibiscus syriacus (Hibiscus)


Hippeastrum spp. (Hippeastrum)


Hosta plataginea (Hosta)


Hyacinthus orientalis (Hyacinth)


Hydrangea arborescens (Hydrangea)


Ipomoea spp. (Morning Glory)


Iris spp. (Iris)


Lantana camara (Lantana)


Lathyrus latifolius (Sweet Pea)


Laurus nobilis (Bay tree)


Lavendula angustifolia (Lavender)


Lilumn asiatica (Asiatic lily)


Lilium longiflorum (Easter lily)


Lilium speciosum (Japanese Show lily)


Lilium sp. (Lily)


Lilium tigrinum (Tiger lily)


Lobelia cardinalis (Lobelia)


Lycopersicon spp. (Tomato plant)


Malus Sulvestrus (apple seeds including crab apples)


Mentha sp. (Mint)


Narcissus spp (Daffodil, Jonquil)


Nasturtium officinale (Nasturtium)


Nerium oleander (Oleander)


Origanum vulgare hirtum (Oregano)


Paeonis officinalis (Peony)


Pelargonium spp. (Geranium)


Petroselinum crispum (Parsley)


Philodendron oxycardium, Philodendron bipennifolium Philodendron spp .(Philodendron)


Phoradendron flavescens, Phoradendron leucarpum (Mistletoe)


Portulaca oleracea (Portulaca)


Poinciana gillesii, Caesalpinia gilliesii, Strelitzia reginae (Bird of Paradise)


Primula vulgaris (Primrose)


Prunus armeniaca (seed from plum, prune, peach, cherry)


Rheum rhabarbarium (Rhubarb)


Rhododendron spp (Azalea)


Sansevieria trifasciata (Mother-in-law’s Tongue)


Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily)


Tulipa spp. (Tulip)


wisteria spp.  (Wisteria)


Yucca sp. (Yucca)


Zamia furfuracea, Cycas spp (Cycads)


Zantedeschia aethiopica (Calla lily, Arum lily)




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