List of Plants Toxic to Rabbits 2023 [Avoid These Plants]

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List of Plants That Are Toxic & Poisonous to Rabbits 2023 [Updated]

White rabbit next to plants
Rabbits are very curious animals and will try to nibble most plants, though some can be highly toxic. Erik Drost / CC BY 2.0

If you have a few household rabbits or have newly acquired one as a pet, you’ll find that they are quite curious. They have a knack for attempting to taste and eat pretty much all types of plants. They can quickly nibble away at leaves and stems, satisfying a seemingly endless appetite. Grass and hay are common favorites, but highly-nutritious, herbaceous greens and vegetables are readily eaten as well.

You’ll be surprised to find that, though many plants are fairly safe for these herbivores, there are others that may be deadly. Keep in mind that domesticated rabbits may not have the instinct to stay away from toxic plants. If provided with some of these, they will likely consume as much as they can without ever suspecting the approaching symptoms.

Some of the vegetables and leafy greens that we ourselves consume are actually harmful to rabbits. Most bulbs, such as those in the onion family, should not be given as a treat or laid out in areas that your rabbit may have access to. As much as possible, stick to natural food items that your local vet would recommend. Avoid growing the following plants in spaces where these furballs can freely roam, and never give their fruits or leaves as treats.

1) Avocado (Persea americana)

Avocado tree
Rabbits may have a severe reaction if they ingest an entire avocado. B.navez, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Central and South America

Though fresh fruits can seem like ideal treats for your pet bunny, some kinds can actually be a lethal snack! A few nibbles of avocado meat may be safe, but the ingestion of the whole fruit can cause severe reactions in rabbits and many other animals. Avocado seeds contain a fungicidal toxin called persin. As the fruit ripens, persin seeps out of the seed and leaches into the fleshy fruit pulp. In some mammals and birds, persin may cause dangerous inflammations.

In rabbits, ingestion of large amounts of avocado pulp can lead to breathing problems. If left untreated, this can lead to heart failure and possibly death. Ingestion of avocado leaves may also result in inflammations and heart damage. Safer fruity alternatives include papaya, pineapple, banana, and melons. Make sure to remove the seeds and fruit peel as these may contain substances that are mildly toxic.

2) Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum)

Rhubarb plant
Though rhubarb leaves may look enticing to rabbits, they are actually very toxic. Chris.urs-o, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Asia

Rhubarb looks deceptively like it would be a perfect, leafy snack for a rabbit with an appetite. Its juicy, colorful stalks make for a nice crunch, and the large leaves look like they’d be a highly nutritious treat… Think again! This is one vegetable that should never be fed to rabbits, especially in its raw form. Even in small amounts, rhubarb is highly dangerous. The leaves are especially toxic.

All parts of rhubarb contain high concentrations of oxalic acid and oxalate salts. If ingested, a large amount of oxalic acid can irritate the stomach and kidneys. In rabbits, rhubarb consumption can lead to weakness, listlessness, and loss of appetite. In more serious cases, it may even result in seizures and nerve damage. Death is not frequently reported, but note that unresolved symptoms can lead to this.

Rhubarb is cultivated primarily for its leaf stalks, which humans can safely consume in small quantities. Though the stalks do contain oxalic acid, they have a higher concentration of malic acid. It’s the leaves that must definitely be avoided. Stick to safer leafy treats for you and your rabbit. Dark-colored lettuce varieties make fine alternatives.

3) Iceberg lettuce (Lactuca sativa)

Iceberg lettuce
Iceberg lettuce can cause diarrhea and stomach issues in rabbits. Rasbak, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This specific variety is native to California

While romaine, butterhead, and lamb’s lettuce are quite safe and highly nutritious (in controlled quantities) for your rabbits, iceberg lettuce is not. This relatively low-nutrient vegetable contains considerable amounts of lactucarium, a whitish fluid that is present in the stalks. These leach into the rest of the leaf and, when consumed, lead to diarrhea and stomach issues in rabbits.

Lactucarium has been dubbed ‘rabbit opium’ due to its trance-like effects in rabbits that consume small amounts of the substance. Rabbits may experience something similar to euphoria and feel dangerously relaxed. They may wake up with regrettably bad stomachs, unfortunately. Iceberg lettuce also contains higher amounts of calcium compared to other lettuce varieties. Too much calcium can lead to thickened urine and infections.

While other, darker-leafed types of lettuce are safer, over-consumption would still be harmful to your rabbit’s health. Limit the provision of safer lettuce varieties to just 1 – 2 times a week. Although dark-colored lettuce leaves are great for hydration and vitamins, they should not serve as a substitute for other fiber-rich foods. Alternatives to lettuce leaves and their stalks include spinach and bell peppers.

4) Garlic (Allium sativum)

Garlic plants
Garlic is unsafe for rabbits but thankfully they tend to avoid this aromatic plant! Leo Michels, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Central Asia

Although there are so many types of garlic grown across the globe, none of them are safe for rabbits. Just because this well-loved root crop has been shown to be incredibly healthy for us, it doesn’t follow that its benefits extend to domesticated animals. When consumed in large amounts, garlic can lead to fatal symptoms in bunnies. It acts as an immunosuppressant and may trigger dangerous allergies.

Garlic contains organosulfur compounds such as thiosulfates and disulfides. When ingested in high concentrations, these compounds can adversely affect blood composition by reducing the red blood cell count. They can also cause hemoglobin to infiltrate urine, making it appear bloody. While the side effects of garlic consumption are certainly troublesome, a small dose can surprisingly lead to therapeutic effects in rabbits. Regardless, a licensed veterinarian must make the call and provide you with detailed instructions on dosage.

Luckily, rabbits are generally averse to the odor of garlic and will seldom approach the bulbs or find them appetizing. In fact, garlic and other Allium species are sometimes used as natural repellents to wild rabbits that may graze on delicate ornamentals outdoors.

5) Tulips (Tulipa spp.)

Tulipa schrenkii
Tulip bulbs are highly toxic and can even cause death in some animals. Natasha de Vere & Col Ford / CC BY 2.0

Native to Asia and Southeastern Europe

Tulips are some of the most highly sought-after spring plants due to their fantastic flowers. These arise from bulbs that may look harmless but are actually highly toxic to most grazers. The bulbs can even cause contact dermatitis in gardeners that handle them with bare hands. The resulting irritation is called the “tulip itch”.

While the tulip bulbs are dangerous, the leaves and flowers are typically grazed down by wild rabbits. Nonetheless, this doesn’t make it safe to plant tulips in a garden with pet rabbits. As they have the tendency to burrow outdoors, rabbits may dig into the soil and attempt to nibble at the toxic bulbs. The bulbs contain high concentrations of alkaloids and glycosides. When ingested in large amounts, these can wreak havoc on the nervous system and may even lead to death in animals.

Apart from the dangers associated with tulip bulbs, it simply doesn’t make sense to cultivate tulips in areas that are accessible to your rabbits. They’ll keep the leaves short, just like your lawnmower would, preventing the plant from converting enough nutrients to sustain its beautiful blooms.

6) Monkshood (Aconitum spp.)

Monkshood plants
Monkshood contains an alkaloid toxin that is severely toxic to rabbits. Rüdiger, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Europe, Asia, and North America

A three-word phrase is often used to describe monkshood – ‘beautiful but deadly’. Also known as wolf’s bane and queen of poisons, the 250+ species in this group of plants belong to the Ranunculaceae or buttercup family. They are known for harboring some of the most famous plant poisons, which have made many appearances in literature and lore. The perfect addition to a witch’s garden, monkshood has absolutely no place in a home with children and beloved pets.

Aconitine is an alkaloid toxin that is largely concentrated in the tubers and roots of monkshood. Initial symptoms after consuming considerable doses of this neurotoxin include diarrhea and vomiting. It is severely toxic to rabbits; small concentrations of the toxin may quickly affect a rabbit’s heart rate, causing it to slow considerably until it comes to a full stop.

Fortunately, monkshood is not known for having a pleasant taste and may be unappealing to the hungriest of grazers. Curious, wild rabbits are unlikely to consume significant doses of the plant, but domesticated pets may not know better.

7) Buttercup (Ranunculus spp.)

Ranunculus sceleratus
Ranunculus sceleratus is a type of buttercup with juices that are toxic to rabbits. Agnieszka Kwiecień (Nova), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to North America, Europe, and Asia

Ranunculus is a large genus of about 600 flowering plants. All of them are toxic to rabbits as they contain a compound called ranunculin. When this is broken down, via mastication of the plant tissues, it is split into its 2 components – glucose, which is harmless, and protoanemonin, which is poisonous. In humans, contact with this substance may cause dermatitis. In rabbits, a large amount of ingested ranunculin can cause digestive issues and oral inflammation.

One type of buttercup, Ranunculus sceleratus, is known for having juices that are highly toxic to rabbits. Also known as celery-leaved buttercup, this plant is distinguished by its deeply lobed and hairless leaves, which are divided into three main leaflets. It is one of the most dangerous species in the buttercup family as about 2% of its chemical composition is made up of protoanemonin. When damaged leaves are touched, they can cause burns and blisters.

R. sceleratus tends to grow in moist areas, including the banks of streams and ponds in Europe and Asia. If you spot this species in your garden, it may be best to take measures for permanent removal. Make sure to use a fully intact pair of gardening gloves whenever you handle buttercups.

8) Larkspur (Delphinium spp.)

Larkspur plants in bloom
The toxic compounds found in larkspur plants can be lethal to rabbits, even at a low dosage. Hanna Zelenko, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native throughout the Northern Hemisphere

Larkspurs are known for their tall inflorescences of vividly colored, dolphin-shaped blooms. These plants bring color and life to just about any garden. Like many incredibly attractive perennials, they harbor various toxins and are known for causing cattle deaths in highly-elevated farm areas. Rabbits would invariably be affected by ingesting any parts of the plant.

The toxic compounds in larkspur are mostly composed of diterpenoid alkaloids. Methyllycaconitine, one of the toxic alkaloids, is highly poisonous. Rabbits have been used in studies to evaluate the toxicity of this compound. A dose of 2 – 3 mg/kg is enough to cause fatalities. Interestingly, though cattle are much larger than rabbits, this low dosage is just as lethal to them.

9) Foxglove (Digitalis spp.)

Foxglove plant
All parts of the foxglove plant are toxic and must be handled with caution. I, Jörg Hempel, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Asia, Africa, and Europe

Although foxglove has many pharmaceutical uses, it must be grown with caution. All parts of the plant, including its seeds and roots, contain highly toxic compounds. Poisoning due to consumption is officially termed ‘digitalis intoxication’. Foxgloves are thus known by other menacing names, including witch’s gloves and dead man’s bells.

The actively toxic compounds in foxglove species include steroidal and cardiac glycosides, with digoxin being one of the more well-studied ones. When ingested by many types of domesticated animals (including rabbits) and livestock, initial symptoms of poisoning include diarrhea, vomiting, delirium, and abdominal pain. More severe cases can result in tremors, convulsions, and fatal disruptions of heart rate.

In some cases, foxglove toxins can be absorbed through the skin or taken into the body via the consumption of water in a vase with foxglove bloom stalks. This is one plant you definitely don’t want lying around the house or in other places that are accessible to rabbits.  

10) Common yew (Taxus baccata)

Common yew tree
Common yew’s toxic compounds are particularly concentrated in its needle-like foliage and seeds. Philipp Guttmann, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Europe, Asia, and Africa

As an evergreen and berry-producing tree, the common yew is a lovely ornamental addition to temperate gardens. Amazingly, this conifer can live for centuries, with some of the largest living specimens being more than a thousand years old! The yew is definitely not for the faint of heart, or, rather, the faint of immunity. Its pollen is extremely allergenic and is fine enough to enter homes through screens and gapped windows.

It isn’t the pollen that a rabbit should watch out for. Apart from the flesh of its fruits, the entire tree is actually toxic! It contains a number of toxic alkaloids and chemical compounds, many of which are found in significant concentrations in the needle-like foliage and seeds. Fifty grams worth of the taxine-rich needles is enough to kill a human adult. Imagine how little a rabbit would have to consume to experience fatal symptoms!

11) Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis)

Lily of the valley plants
Lily of the valley has a sweet fragrance but can cause gastrointestinal disorders in rabbits. H. Zell, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Europe and Asia

Known for its immaculately white, bell-shaped flowers, lily of the valley is a woodland species that produces a sweet scent. The exquisite fragrance has inspired many designer perfumes. Nonetheless, don’t be fooled by the delicate features of this species as it is completely toxic to both humans and animals! Lily of the valley contains dozens of toxic and pharmacologically important compounds, most of which are cardiac glycosides.

In large doses, cardiac glycosides are able to alter heart rate. In rabbits, consumption of the plant can lead to gastrointestinal disorders as well. Both the foliage and flowers should never be given as a treat. If rabbits roam freely around your home, avoid keeping lily of the valley flowers in a vase as the rabbits may attempt to eat them, or, at the very least, knock them over.

Convallotoxin is the principal cardiac glycoside in C. majalis. Apart from causing symptoms such as nausea and hypertension, this can cause lethal blood clots. Though Catherine Middleton held a bridal bouquet of lily of the valley blooms at her wedding, this plant is far from harmless! It may be a symbol for “the return of happiness” in literature, but those who eat it will certainly feel the literal pangs of regret!

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