August 1, 2014 7:59 pm

Nightshade plant raises safety concerns for kids at Toronto park


TORONTO – The Woburn Park is a popular spot for kids and families, but one resident says she is concerned about a plant growing there that could be hazardous to children and pets.

Lynn Logan says she noticed a number of ‘bittersweet nightshade’ plants growing alongside the fencing of the park and splash pad area.  Logan says she has seen a number of kids playing along the fence, and picking the berries from the plant.

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“Toxic berries have been growing inside and outside of the park,” Logan told Global News. “When I called the city to have them remove them, I had to call three times and they have not been properly removed. They are toxic berries for children and for dogs.”

Global News called Toronto’s parks department to find out why the plants were still there. In a response, the City said in cases where a call comes into 311 over a concern for hazardous vegetation, parks’ crews go in to assess the situation. If the vegetation is in a accessible area and it is deemed hazardous it is then removed.

“After the initial treatment is done, the staff will go back in few weeks and re-monitor the situation and check for any vegetation that may have been missed the first time over, as well as any re-growth that may have happened in the interim and we will of course remove [it], said Doug Smith,  Toronto’s program standards and development officer. “[Woburn Park] is known to us so we will be monitoring it in further years as well.”

What exactly is Bittersweet Nightshade?

Bittersweet nightshade also called climbing nightshade can be recognized by its three leaves and purple flower, which eventually sprouts red berries, according to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture.

The plant is considered to be toxic, but not necessarily deadly, and it should not be confused with ‘deadly nightshade’, also known as ‘Belladonna’. Deadly nightshade can be recognized has a very dark blue, almost black berry and are particularly poisonous according to the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture.

Paul Zammit, the director of horticulture at the Toronto Botanical Gardens, recommends bittersweet nightshade be removed to prevent it from spreading.

“It has become invasive in many areas. It can grow in wide range of conditions even in low light conditions it does perfectly fine,” Zammit told Global News. “My immediate recommendation to any parent, any guardian, is if your child eats something which you are not aware of, try and get a picture of it, contact poison control and get your child to the hospital.”

Zammit say the best way to prevent the plant from spreading is to remove it from the root and to ensure no berries are left behind where the seeds can easily spread.

Lynn Logan was doing just that when she found several plants growing in the park, and says she hopes the City will come back and remove the rest of the plants before it harms anyone.

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