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    Are swan plants poisonous? Apparently the Ministry of Education has banned them and my nephew’s kindy have taken their plants out. Seems a shame to me.

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    It is very frustrating when I talk to an ECE (early childhood centre) and hear the plants have been banned because my next question is: “who says?” and no-one can give me the details. It’s a bit like one of those urban myths (about the ban).

    There are some very creative ways of ensuring that the children are safe but can still enjoy the spectacle of seeing monarchs thriving.

    I hope we hear from some play centres etc – it would be great to know of more.





    A friend of mine is taking her grandson to Playcentre in Te Puke. They are creating a new outdoor play area and garden, so I thought this was a great opportunity for them to consider a butterfly habitat! However my friend was told that the MOE says no to swan plants. However, I have read this thread, and there are ideas here that mean the swan plants can be enclosed somehow, and the children can watch the wonderful life cycle. I will pass the information on to my friend and see if the Playcentre will run with the idea.
    Would be delighted to hear of any playcentres who have overcome this problem, and have vibrant butterfly habitats!



    Hi Butterfly Musketeers

    Yes, the plant is poisonous but there are hundreds if not thousands of plants in our lives which are poisonous. In my personal opinion we need to teach our children to be careful and sensible around these things.

    It is the whole plant, any milkweed is poisonous. However, it tastes absolutely disgusting and unappealing – I know, I have had some latex on my fingers and put my fingers in my mouth, and if anyone wanted to kill themselves they would have to sit down and eat lots of the plant.

    Errol is quite right, however, that the latex if you get it in your eye can cause temporary blindness and it’s a horrible thing. Immediate action is required if it does happen – wash the eye out and get expert advice.

    There is more information about the plant here, especially in relation to children.

    Milkweed is Poisonous



    Yes, sorry to say the whole plant is poisonous. It’s the sticky white fluid that comes out which is the problem, getting it in your eyes can be very dangerous. Always wash your hands after working with this plant, especially if you have contact with the white sap.

    Good luck.



    Hi there, is it the whole of the plant that is poisonous ie the green leaves or just the seed pod at the top. Thanks



    I did a search on NZ regulations and I think I have found the relevant legislation:
    Education (Early Childhood Centres) Regulations 1998
    Regulation 24 (q)
    24 The licensee of a licensed centre must ensure that –
    (q) There are systems in place that prevent children from gaining access to any plant matter that is or is capable of being poisonous to children.

    So it would appear, as Angie says, that the kindergarten/preschool can grow swan plants, as long as they have “systems in place”. These systems might be barriers such as fences, but perhaps could be supervision?



    The issue of kindergartens/preschools growing swanplants has come up on another forum, and a member suggested that the kindergarten/preschool can fail its audit if milkweed is grown. Does anyone know a bit more about this? Which is the Government agency making the rule? And how can preschools/kindergartens safely manage the poisonous plant so that they pass the audit, but the kids can still experience the magic of the metamorphosis?


    From what I understand its not an MOE decision to ban milk weed, schools have been advised to “manage” it while its on the grouds from MOE. So maybe a neting enclussre would be a good idea to schools and daycare as a precaution. Saying this the school board have the right to restrict any thing they wish, so would say that make contact with the school and see if anything can be done to make the plants “safer”. Angie



    Hi Rachel

    We hear this quite often. If you can ask the person who told you this for the directive from the MinEdu, they never can show you anything concrete – it’s an “urban rumour”.

    However, the plant is poisonous – but you’d have to be a brave specimen to eat enough (10% of your bodyweight) to get sick, it tastes disgusting. There are two very good
    papers published by Landcare Research


    and more on http://www.poisonz.co.nz (can’t give you the link, you have to search the website. Basically what Landcare say is that they have to balance up the lessons children learn from the Monarch Butterfly against the potential of someone getting hurt. And I say, let’s fence the oceans and rivers too! (I’m being facetious — this “safety” thing has gone way beyond the absudrd.)

    I will be interested to hear what they do say if you ask the questions at your kindy.





    I’m not sure but I think they are a bit. They have that white latex(?) stuff which is typically a poison. I’d imagine it wouldn’t be good for youngsters to putting it in their mouth, like littlies are apt to do. Sorta like they do with dirt and stuff. I know their is another small plant which is a common garden pest (a darned nuisance actually) which is called a milkweed, with the same white latex, which will burn the skin and has been known to burn warts off. Before I joined this forum I had little knowledge of the Monarch, and the general idea was that nothing touched monarchs because they were poisonous to eat. Of course I know different now, but I’d imagine they’d still make birds or whatever that tries them out, pretty crook.

    Just my 2 cents

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