Is a Petunia Toxic?

I couldn’t believe it when I first heard from a worker at a garden center that the petunia was toxic.  To me the petunia flower looks just too beautiful to kill you.

That surprise was nothing compared to what I read this week in Philadelphia nurseryman Thomas Meehan’s magazine Gardener’s Monthly of 1868.

Meehan devoted an entire article in that volume of GM to the petunia. The article began with the plant’s travel from Brazil to England, where it first appeard in 1823.

Then the author of the article W. P. from Detroit wrote that, “For a long time after its first introduction, the Petunia was looked upon as almost worthless, and from the flimsy appearance of its flowers, was pronounced a ‘miserable weed’, but we must now abandon the word weed, for the Petunia has become a florists’ flower.”  The plant had arrived because by 1868  flower-lovers everywhere treasured it.

A bit later the 1874 seed catalog of James Vick from Rochester, NY lists eight varieties of petunias.  He wrote in the flower description: “The improvement of this flower has been constant.”

A new petunia variety from Proven Winners called Supertunia® ‘Pretty Much Picasso’ grows in my backyard on this wrought iron table [left photo]. 

The popular petunia began its journey to American gardens from England, as was the case with much in American gardens in the nineteenth century.

Today the petunia is still a popular summer garden variety.

 

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