What Cacti Are Poisonous? Keeping Your Home & Kids Safe

When listing succulents suitable for indoor plants, cacti are always a top choice. A cactus is a unique succulent with unique flowers and a unique shape. There are several varieties of this gorgeous plant. In fact, it is possible to have a group of indoor plants that are all cacti. You will still have a unique and beautiful combination. 

Another amazing feature of these succulents is that they can adapt to harsh weather conditions. Cacti are normally found in the desert or in areas with extreme droughts. They survive the harsh weather by storing up enough water in their roots, stems and leaves to last a long time. 

If you are a passive gardener and you forget to care for or water your plants, then you will enjoy having a cactus. You only need to water the cactus moderately and occasionally. They take care of themselves thereby relieving you of the stress off tendering to them. They are long-lasting and can stay indoors for over 10 years and still maintain their succulent self.

If you are looking for self-maintaining plants, you should buy cacti

Poisonous Cacti

One thing you should note is that it is not all roses and daisies with cacti. Cacti have a lot of amazing features some of which I have pointed out above. However, some cacti are poisonous.

By poisonous, I am not just referring to the spines on cacti leaves. Of course, these spines can be dangerous. The spines on cacti are painful and irritating if they find their way into your skin.

However, these spines serve a different purpose to the plants. They are a defense mechanism used to protect cacti from predators. They also offer shade against the radiation from the dessert’s sun. 

Also, the spines on some species have a reproductive purpose. The spine clings to a host and when they fall off, they start growing. Thus, spines do not necessarily make a cactus poisonous. Yes, they are hurtful but not necessarily poisonous.

What then makes a cactus poisonous? you may ask. Some cacti are dangerous to humans and animals. They are corrosive to the skin and when ingested, they may cause you or your pet to fall sick. These are poisonous cacti.

While you may have had no need to research before buying a cactus, If you have children or pets at home, you should be careful and pick the cactus you buy carefully. This is worse for gardeners who cut and replant succulents. You may pick a poisonous cactus and bring it into your home. 

This is why I have come up with a list of cacti that are poisonous so you do not make a mistake. Read on to find out the poisonous cacti. 

Peyote Cactus (Lophophora williamsii)


The peyote cactus is a spineless species. One would assume that cactus with no spines would be the least harmful but that is not the case with the peyote. It grows commonly in the South Western part of the United States and Mexico. The peyote cactus is a slow-growing plant. It takes 3-4 years to grow and remains small throughout its lifetime. 

The peyote is popularly cultivated for its medicinal and psychoactive properties. It is traditionally used by natives to treat illnesses such as fever, skin diseases, rheumatism, diabetes, cold and childbirth pain.

The mescaline content in this cactus is responsible for its psychoactive properties. Thus, when consumed, one can feel the psychoactive effect after a short while. There are also cultural and religious uses of these cacti plants among natives. This is a commonly used and in places where it grows, it is ingested for medicinal purposes. 

By now, I am sure you are wondering what makes this species harmful then. 

This healing cactus can have an adverse effect when abused. They have dangerous side effects which include fatality in some instances. An overdose of the peyote cactus can be disastrous.

Peyote cacti can cause a psychotic break down when used in conjunction with other substances. Also, it is unsafe for people with mental challenges to ingest this cactus as it has been discovered that it can aggravate mental health problems. Thus, you should keep away from this cactus if you have mental problems.

If you live with someone going through mental challenges, you should also keep this cactus far away from your home. Some people experience psychological dependence after ingesting this cactus. This makes it naturally unsafe especially when you have kids in your home.

Also, the peyote can have strong emetic effects. Its bitter taste makes it extremely nauseating. Thus, the peyote should not be kept in a place where children and pets are. It may attract them and they may end up ingesting it. The fact that it has no spines also makes it easier for them to get it. 

 The peyote causes variations in heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and pupillary dilation. Thus, the peyote cactus, although spineless, is not a friendly cactus.

San Pedro Cactus (Echinopsis pachanoi)

San Pedro Cactus

The San Pedro cactus has spines and beautiful flowers. It grows in the Andes mountains in Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, and Ecuador. Just like the peyote, this cactus also has a high concentration of mescaline and other psychedelic alkaloids. 

This cactus was used for recreational purposes, healing and to facilitate psycho exploration. It is either consumed as a slushy liquid or its dried powder is added to drinks to mask the bitter taste.

In most countries, mescaline is listed as an illegal substance because of the dangers it can cause. Thus, the consumption of this cactus is not advisable. However, it is permitted to plant and groom this cactus for aesthetical and gardening purposes. The reason is not farfetched as the cactus is attractive. However, you should bear in mind that this cactus poses a serious threat to your health and the health of everyone around you if consumed. 

Mescaline can cause visual and auditory hallucinations when consumed without control. It can also distort a person’s thought process. It is therefore not advisable to keep the san pedro cactus in your home. If children or pets ingest this plant, there is no telling how deadly the result will be. 

There are also several side effects that one can suffer from ingesting the san pedro cactus. Nausea, vomiting, palpitations, dizziness, stomach pains, and tremors are a few of such effects. It is also easy to build a tolerance for mescaline with continuous consumption of the san pedro cactus. This can lead to an addiction. 

Canary Islands Splurge (Euphorbia Canariensis)

Euphorbia Canariensis

The euphorbia canariensis is a top choice because it is easy to grow and grows in well-drained soil and in full sun. If you’re looking for a low maintenance plant, the euphorbia canariensis is easily a top choice among other cacti species. It is commonly found in the narrow coastal belt of the canary island. It can live for 100 years or more. 

It is a self sustaining plant and can survive harsh weather conditions. It thrives in extreme cold where other plants die. It has succulent green leaves but produces reddish and brownish flowers along the edges. This plant can be grown in rooms and inside homes as a home plant but it is rarely used as a domestic plant for obvious reasons.  

The canary island splurge is toxic and cannot be consumed. It has a silky sap that irritates the skin and eyes. It must be handled carefully as any breakage will expose the milky sap. If your skin comes in contact with the sap, you can suffer skin burn. If ingested, it can cause sneezing fainting and cold sweats.

Bolivian Torch Cactus (Echinopsis lageniformis or Achuma)

Bolivian Torch Cactus

The Bolivian Torch, is a fast-growing cactus that can be found in the Bolivian mountains. It was formerly known as “Trichocereus bridgesii”, but has been renamed to “Echinopsis lageniformis”, because a new classification for cacti came into effect.

The Bolivian torch has greenish to bluish color with spines that range from honey-colored to brown color and is one of the least known cactus that contains mescaline, that as we said before, is harmful.

Mescaline is a substance with hallucinogenic properties. As a result of this, there are so many side effects one can suffer from its consumption. Eating the flesh of this cactus can cause serious visual defects.

The mescaline content can induce disordered thoughts and an altered point of view and perception of the surrounding world. One has to be extremely careful with the dosage. 

The mescaline content also makes one nauseous. You can go into a vomiting fit when you ingest this cactus. The natives who ingested this did not see this as an adverse effect.

In fact, it was believed that it was a cleansing process but you definitely would not feel clean after repeated bouts of vomiting. Extreme nausea and excessive vomiting can weaken you. One can not imagine the effect it will have on children. This is why this cactus is not recommended as an indoor plant.

Also, excess consumption of this cactus can lead to an addiction. This cactus had not been any studies to regulate the dosage of mescaline needed. And these plants have a high content of mescaline. Thus, it is best avoided unless you are absolutely certain that it will not be ingested. 

The Peruvian Torch Cactus  (Echinopsis Peruviana)

Echinopsis Peruviana

The Peruvian torch cactus is known for its fast-growing nature. The cactus is commonly found in the western slopes of the Andes in Peru. This cactus has long spines and grows to 3-6 cm. The plants are vigorous and grow really fast.

It belongs to the same species of cactus as the san Pedro and the Bolivian torch. It is named after the city of Peru. It is easy to cultivate and it thrives moist regions. Although it is accustomed to moist regions, this cactus adapts easily and can store enough water for a long time when grown in dry regions. 

A unique feature of the Peruvian torch is that it has gorgeous white flowers that grow near the tip of the stem. The flowers open up at night and has a strong fragrance.

Natives used the Peruvian torch cactus in the past for religious festivities. The Peruvian torch has psychoactive properties, due to a large number of alkaloids it has, especially mescaline.

This made it suitable for religious activities such as purging. However, its mescaline content makes it potentially dangerous when consumed. It causes severe nausea and vomiting and can be associated with psychotic breakdowns.

People who consume these cactus are liable to suffer from hallucinations and disordered thoughts. This plant should be consumed sparingly and kept far away from children. It is best cultivated as an outdoor plant although it may still pose a risk to you when cultivated outside. 

Final Thoughts

Although cacti are a great option for indoor plants, they are not entirely safe. It is therefore important to take all necessary precautions to keep them away from pets children and anyone that can negligently consume them. The known side effects might not be all that scary but one can only imagine the long term effects of these plants on our health. 

The need to grow these plants in our environment conflicts with our desire for safety. A good way to have them around is to cultivate them in restricted areas. If you’re sure no one is going to ingest them, where they are, then you can safely keep them around you. Thus, it is important that you take all necessary precautions. If you cannot isolate these plants and keep them out of reach, it is best not to plant them at all. 

Also, since these plants have medicinal benefits, it might be necessary to take them. But you should consult with a doctor to verify the quantity or dosage that would be suitable for your body. Otherwise, you can just grow them in a secluded area and stay completely away from them.