Are Chrysanthemums Poisonous?

Chrysanthemums come in many different varieties and are commonly known as daisies, ‘mums,’ or chrysanths. There are thirteen different varieties, and they are popular in floral arrangements as they last for up to two weeks. Their colorful blooms and hardiness make them popular in garden flower beds. It is essential to know if plants are poisonous if you have children or animals that may have access to them.

Chrysanthemums contain pyrethrum, a toxin converted to pyrethrin that has been used as an insecticide for thousands of years. Chrysanthemums also contain sesquiterpene lactones which are highly allergenic. Chrysanthemums are toxic to people and animals and can cause fatal allergic reactions.

Chrysanthemums are often sold in pots as indoor plants, or they can be planted out in the garden. There are many different cultivars that are popular with gardeners and florists.

Do Chrysanthemums Contain Poison?

Chrysanthemums contain pyrethrum, which is a toxic compound that has been used for centuries to produce insecticides. Records indicate that in 1000 BC, the Chinese dried chrysanthemum flowers crushed them, and used them to deter and kill insects.

Pyrethrum is the raw extract from the chrysanthemum flower. This is refined to select six esters that make up pyrethrin. There are two different kinds of pyrethrins – type 1 and type 2. They have differing levels of toxicity for varying animal species.

Orange Chrysanthemums in pot
Yay Orange Chrysanthemums in pot

Pyrethrum is concentrated in the flowers and seed capsules of chrysanthemum plants. In addition to pyrethrum, chrysanthemums contain sesquiterpene lactones which are substances that produce allergic reactions as a defense mechanism for the plant.

Can A Person Be Poisoned By Chrysanthemums?

Ingestion of a chrysanthemum flower will cause symptoms of poisoning in people. The symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Paresthesia in the face (altered skin sensations)
  • Itching and burning skin
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle twitching
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Salivation
  • Fluid build-up in the lungs (pulmonary edema)
  • Seizures may occur

Sesquiterpene lactones found in chrysanthemums cause allergic reactions such as:

  • Burning itching skin
  • Blisters
  • Hives
  • Respiratory distress
  • Irritation of the mucous membranes – so your nose will become blocked, and your eyes may water.

Some people may have elevated sensitivities to sesquiterpene lactones, and they may have severe allergic reactions that can be life-threatening.

Chronic exposure to pyrethrum or pyrethrins can result in sensitization so that the individual develops a low tolerance. Minimal exposure will then result in symptoms. These individuals need to avoid coming into contact with chrysanthemums and pyrethrins in insecticides. This includes aerosol insecticides and animal remedies for ticks and fleas.

Are Chrysanthemums Toxic To Birds?

Chrysanthemums are toxic to birds. The lactones in chrysanthemums cause burning and swelling of the tongue and oral mucosa if the bird eats any part of the plant. Other symptoms may include dizziness, diarrhea, and neurological abnormalities.

Certain extracted pyrethrins may have low toxicity for birds, but raw pyrethrum is toxic for birds.

Purple Chrysanthemums
Yay Purple Chrysanthemums

Are Chrysanthemums Poisonous To Dogs?

Chrysanthemums are toxic to dogs. They will show similar symptoms to poisoning in people. They are vulnerable to the allergic reaction produced by lactones in the plant. A dog that eats a chrysanthemum should be taken to see a veterinarian immediately.

Certain pyrethrins derived from pyrethrum may be used in insecticides for dogs to deter or kill ticks and fleas. An example of this is permethrin which is often supplied as a spot-on application to treat or prevent parasitic infestation.

Are Chrysanthemums Poisonous To Cats?

Cats are much more vulnerable to pyrethrins than dogs, and chrysanthemums are therefore highly toxic for cats. Many accidental and sometimes fatal cat poisonings occur when people mistakenly use a dog spot-on containing permethrin on their cat.

Symptoms of chrysanthemum poisoning in cats are neurological signs, tremors, seizures, coma, and death.

Are Chrysanthemums poisonous to cats
Yay Are Chrysanthemums poisonous to cats

Will Chrysanthemums Poison Horses?

All parts of a chrysanthemum plant are poisonous to horses. It results in gastric irritation leading to colic, which is potentially fatal for horses. There is also neurological damage that causes muscle twitching, shaking, and tremors.

Blood may pool in the liver, kidney, and lungs, causing organ failure and respiratory distress. Chronic low exposure to chrysanthemums results in lesions in the intestines, liver, kidneys, and lungs. Long-term exposure may also result in blindness.

Are Chrysanthemums Toxic To Fish?

Chrysanthemums or pyrethrins that inadvertently enter waterways are detrimental to all fish species. They are highly toxic to fish, and an entire ecosystem in the river can be obliterated by the introduction of pyrethrin.

Tadpoles are vulnerable to pyrethrin and, therefore, chrysanthemums, dying quickly after exposure. Do not plant chrysanthemums around a pond, fish dam, or water feature.

Are Chrysanthemums Useful Plants?

Chrysanthemums are useful plants as they provide a means of producing insecticides which in some forms can be safe for use around people. Some pyrethrins are combined with other insecticides to form animal-safe insecticides that may be applied to the animal to combat harmful parasites.

Chrysanthemums may also be used as companion plants in vegetable gardens to deter insects from spoiling vegetables or fruit. In some countries, chrysanthemums are planted around homes to reduce or prevent mosquitoes or midges from plaguing the homeowners.

Chinese medicine uses chrysanthemum flowers for various topical applications and even internal consumption in the form of tea. Only use these chrysanthemum remedies under the supervision of a qualified herbalist.

Pyrethrum shampoos are used to treat scabies, lice, and lice nits on people. Although the shampoo is effective, it is vital that care is taken that the shampoo does not have contact with the eyes.

Reports of keratitis, irritation and allergic conjunctivitis following the use of pyrethrum shampoos are common. In severe cases, there may be corneal abrasions which are extremely painful and pose a risk for bacterial infection.


Chrysanthemums contain pyrethrum, which is toxic to most life forms in its raw form. They also contain defensive sesquiterpene lactones that result in uncomfortable and possibly life-threatening allergies. Although chrysanthemums are poisonous, they are helpful plants that can provide us with valuable insecticides. If you are a parent to toddlers, and own dogs, or cats, it is best to avoid having chrysanthemums around the home.