Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Is the ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) poisonous?

Zamioculcas zamiifolia (Loddiges)Engl.
Synonyms: Zamioculcas loddigesii, Zamiacaulcas zamiafolia, Zamioculcas lanceolata,
Z. "lancifolia" and strangely Caladium zamiaefolium (the basionym)

Common names:

Aroid Palm, Arum Fern, ZZ Plant, Zee Zee plant, ZeZe plant, Zeezee Plant, Zu Zu Plant, Money Tree, Fat Boy, Eternity Plant, Zanzibar Gem, Chinese New Year Festive Plant, Chinese Gold Coin Plant and incorrectly "Succulent Philodendron", Emerald FrondsSometimes incorrectly spelled "Zamioculcus" using a second "u"

In Malaysia it is more commonly known as Money Plant.
It is believed that it will bring wealth to the owner thus it can be found many homes and offices.

Visitors to our home in Teluk Pulai, Klang have never failed to question whether this 'Money Plant" is really dangerous. In desperation, we looked up Steve Lucas in the net and here's what he has to say:

"Please let me start this off with I am well aware some folks on plant forums like this don’t like my posts. I try to share and teach the science of plants, not rumors. When I try to explain some things growers often don’t like to learn what they’ve been led to believe is a rumor, not fact. If you don’t care about the facts of plants please click the “X” up in the corner right now. You won’t like reading this.

Because I maintain a fairly large website that offers scientific information in what I hope is an easy to understand format I get tons of questions in my email box. Lately the big one is people wanting to know if they touch a ceramic pot containing a ZZ plant (scientifically Zamioculcas zamiifolia) from Africa is it possible to die of severe poisoning. My first answer: hogwash! My first question is “Where did you read this?”

The ZZ plant is an aroid. Aroids are distinguished by the production of a spathe and spadix known as an inflorescence in order to reproduce. The ZZ is found in East Africa and the Internet is completely filled with false information about the plant. It does not grow in a desert; no aroid grows in a desert. It does like water and has a roughly equal period of extreme wet followed by a period of extreme dry. The plant needs regular water.

A new plant can be started from a single leaf by following simple instructions but it does not happen quickly. But most important, neither the ZZ, a Philodendron, an Anthurium and not even the Dieffenbachia (CLICK HERE for our report on "pisang tanah") are poisonous! I can hear you screaming at me right now! Did you know people around the world eat some aroids including Dieffenbachia on a regular basis? I have eaten many of them and am still quite alive.

All aroids contain calcium oxalate crystals but calcium oxalate is not a poison. It just tastes bad in many cases and in a great enough concentration can cause your mouth and throat to be very irritated. Did you know calcium oxalate crystals are found in Parsley, Chives, Cassava, Spinach, Beet leaves, Carrot, Radish, Collards, Bean, Brussels sprouts, Garlic, Lettuce, Watercress, Sweet potato, Turnip, Broccoli, Celery, Eggplant, Cauliflower, Asparagus, Cabbage, Tomato, Pea, Turnip greens, Potato, Onion, Okra, Pepper, Squash, Cucumbers, Corn and many other vegetables? Promise, that is a scientific fact. Have you ever wondered why kids don’t like spinach? They don’t like the taste of the calcium oxalate!

So how does such junk science as the “pot of a ZZ plant can poison you” get started? People read something they don’t understand and repeat it. Just like a rumor the next person adds some embellishment and so does the next. Finally someone decides to post what they “heard” on the internet and the rumor just grows and grows and grows. Suddenly even the pot of a plant can kill you!"

Steve Lucas of Exotic Rainforest serves on the board of the International Aroid Society

Photo: besides the ZZ plant we have the carving of a "grass-hopper man" by a Jahut from Pahang (CLICK HERE and HERE for information on the Jahut, a subgroup of the Senoi, the indegenous people of Malaysia) and of course our Good Luck Biawak (iguana) from HERE


  1. Interesting as I received an email informing me of the danger of this plant so I am glad it is not poisonous.

  2. Hi Rosemarie

    We did a post on Dieffenbachia, called ‘dumbcane’ in English and ‘pisang tanah’ in Malaysia, which was also wrongly thought to be poisonous.

    Click here for details:

    Have a good day!

  3. OMG.....I had just throw my ZZ(money plant) out of my door this evening, due to I heard someone told me that ZZ is poisonous especially during bloom....I had started brought it back since 2004 when it was just only 5 inches tall, but now it grow very, very well and started to have its flower(like small, short(2 inches) chili in white)...I was so worry it will be dangerous to my young kid at home since someone said it is poisonous during bloom....I had throw it together with the beautiful clay pot with very unik lotus flower painting on it..............Ohhhhh~

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