No, it is not – as far as one can claim against the background of the famous Paracelsus saying “The crowd makes the poison”; after all, you can die if you drink too much water. The constituents of the penny tree may be irritating, as has been proven for some of its relatives, and you should certainly not feed money trees (especially freshly purchased, possibly pesticide-laden) money trees; but playing with the leaves shouldn’t kill a toddler / pet even if it degenerates into snacking or nibbling. Here is a brief overview of the known facts.

Investigation of the thick leaf plants

The toxic ingredients of the money tree do not exist, at least not for humans, dogs, cats and other known mammals kept by humans in the domestic community.

According to the information center against poisoning of the University Clinic Bonn, the thick leaf species Crassula arborescens and Crassula portulacea, which are sold as penny trees, are classified as non-toxic to slightly toxic. In addition to the thick-leaf species, this should also apply to numerous Sedum species such as the sedum plant and Kalanchoe species such as the Flammende Käthchen, with which the Bonn Poison Center treats the Germans’ favorite thick-leaf plants on one page.

Since “non-toxic to slightly toxic” is not a statement that reassures worried mothers, the following is explained in more detail: “The parts of most thick-leaf plants are hardly or not at all toxic. Some of the South African thick-leaf plants (genus cotyledon, also individual Kalanchoe species) seem to cause nervous and muscular symptoms when consumed repeatedly. ”

First of all, it should be noted that the money tree is “off the hook” for the scientists at the information center against poisoning, it is neither a cotyledon nor a Kalanchoe, but belongs to a different genus of thick-leaf plants.

This genus of thick leaves, the crassula or thick leaves, does not only produce a penny tree (more on this in the next section), but none of them are poisonous. The entire genus Crassula is missing from the German list of poisonous plants; DIN 18034 on safe planting of playgrounds (“Playgrounds and open spaces for playing – requirements and instructions for planning and operation”; Berlin Beuth-Verlag 1999) only excludes 4 poisonous plants from planting in play areas: laburnum, eccentric cones, daphne , Holly; all not even remotely related to the money tree.

In the database of the Institute for Veterinary Pharmacology and Toxicology in Zurich, Switzerland, the best-known money tree with the botanical name “Crassula ovata” is listed as a “presumably non-toxic plant”, since there is no evidence of potential toxicity in the entire scientific literature.

In addition, those responsible at the Institute for Veterinary Pharmacology and Toxicology rightly point out that the money tree is not suitable as fodder. Pets can react with all sorts of digestive problems or intolerances if they are fed completely unfamiliar food. We’ll go into more detail about the keyword intolerance in a moment (because money trees and the like already have effective ingredients), now money trees are sorted first:

The money tree, the money trees

The best-known money tree is botanically called Crassula ovata (or synonymously C. portulacea, C. argentea, C. obliqua) and is a species from the genus thick leaf (Crassula) of the thick leaf family.

In addition to the genus Sedum, thick leaves are the most species-rich genus in the family of thick leaf plants (Crassulaceae). It is therefore not surprising that “Crassula ovata” is not the only plant that is sold as a money tree or a penny tree. As the above-mentioned entry in the database of the University Clinic Bonn already suggests, different types of thick leaves are offered as penny trees. There are listed Crassula arborescens, the money tree with the continuously red bordered leaves, and Crassula portulacea, a synonym for the normal money tree Crassula ovata (which can also have reddish leaf margins), plus a few cultivars:

  • Crassula arborescens: stature heights of half a meter to one meter, gray-green round leaves with a reddish edge. Blooms with white to pink flowers in winter (when it is big enough, old enough and cool enough to be overwintered under short-day conditions).
  • Crassula arborescens subsp. undulatifolia is a variety with wavy triangular leaves
  • We usually know Crassula ovata in about this green shape, but can also show a lot of light flowers
  • Crassula ovata ‘ET’: Selected form (cultivar) with quite thick leaf tubes that seem to end in a kind of suction cup
  • Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’: Selected form with tubular leaves that are a bit reminiscent of fingers, but can also look very pretty
  • Crassula ovata ‘Hobbit’: Selected form with compact growth and tubular leaves that only specialists can distinguish from ‘Gollum’
  • Crassula ovata ‘Hummel’s Sunset’, a lot of red in the leaves, should bloom easily and a lot

If the lucky charm moved in with you without any scientific name and you would like to be sure, you can usually assign it now based on the description and the pictures. However, we live in a global world and these were only the most famous cultivars. Since Crassulae happily form variants during breeding, there are Crassula ovata + arborescens in various other forms – and there are enough other species among the total of 285 known representatives of this genus that can be marketed as penny trees in foreign habitats in the future. Wouldn’t the cm-tall Crassula orbicularis be a great candidate for the world’s first dwarf penny tree?

As I said, the Crassulae are all considered non-toxic. The variety of species and varieties of thick leaves and the statement above that representatives of closely related genera are said to cause nervous and muscular symptoms when consumed repeatedly is certainly a reason for suspicious natures to get closer to the “non-toxic to slightly toxic” ingredients to deal with, which can be found in this plant family:

Ingredients of the thick leaf plants

Crassula ovata is not only used by us and not only as a houseplant. In his homeland, the money tree is one of the “floral elements of the Capensis”, ie one of the plants that like and often grow on the Cape of Good Hope; There, however, as a shrub up to 3 meters high with an equally imposing circumference.

The indigenous people of South Africa knew how to use this common native plant:

  • The indigenous peoples of Africa are said to have used the roots of the money tree as food
  • They were grated and boiled and eaten with thick milk
  • The leaves were also used for medicinal purposes
  • Boiled in milk, they were given as a laxative, but also as a remedy for diarrhea
  • Boiled money tree leaves have also been used to treat epilepsy
  • The cooked leaves should also work against corns, probably outwardly and hopefully helpful
  • The use against warts has also been proven, this time expressly externally:
  • A raw leaf is cut open and tied with the moist pulp to the wart, which should then fall off after a while

This shows today’s money tree owners that the plant does contain ingredients that have an effect on the human organism. Possibly even dangerous, if these ingredients can even kill warts?

No information on the ingredients is publicly available for the most famous money tree Crassula ovata. But it must have been analyzed more closely because it is listed as Crassula argentea (you will remember, one of the synonyms) in the INCI list. INCI is the “international nomenclature of cosmetic ingredients”, the international directory of cosmetic ingredients. In the information list of a US platform for perfumers, the “crassula argentea leaf extract” (extract from the leaves) is listed as a cosmetic ingredient for hair conditioning. This proves that the money tree is harmless to human health if its ingredients appear in cosmetics in the maximum permitted amount. Because our cosmetics legislation stipulates

The “low toxicity” of the Crassula relatives mentioned by the University Clinic Bonn (also based at the Cape) is due to organic acids that are contained in low concentrations in the leaves: malic acid and isocitric acid (same chemical compound, but different form than our famous citric acid). Both quite common substances, malic acid can be found e.g. B. in apples, quinces, grapes and gooseberries, isocitric acid occurs in apples, pears, raspberries, blackberries and currants. That is why the information center against poisoning also states: “critical dose unknown” – people allergic to apples react to the smallest amounts of malic acid, and people who are generally acid-sensitive can have problems with the isocitric acid in a handful of blackberries.

Only a chemist who often analyzes Crassula ovata can tell you whether it is really the same acids that cause warts to fall off from money tree leaves. But from the fact that these acids are the only potentially problematic substances to be found in the entire literature on Crassula and Co., you can surely infer a certainty: Feeding money trees would not be a good idea, but more than a small one Skin or stomach irritation is not to be feared, even with the most sensitive baby or pet, if they bite a leaf from the money tree on a trial basis.

In the case of money trees purchased in stores, however, there is a very different risk of poisoning: In contrast to plants growing in the wild, green plants in conventional stores may have been treated with a whole range of man-made chemicals: fertilizers and pesticides, leaf waxes and growth inhibitors; just all the stuff that has been spread on our fruit and vegetables for half a century and has now caused so many environmental diseases and intolerances that the call for an agricultural reform “back to nature” is getting louder and louder.

Like its natural relatives, the money tree Crassula ovata does not contain any poisons (in the sense of arsenic, strychnine, etc.), but only a few organic acids that could cause discomfort in sensitive people. The potentially critical crop protection and plant care products it contains depends largely on your source of purchase; The shorter it has been since you bought the money tree, the sooner you should keep small children and pets away from the plant.

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