Anthurium, also known as the flamingo flower, is native to tropical areas of South America, but is now commonly associated with cultivators in Hawaii. Anthurium is a perennial flower, grown from a rhizome, and is most often propagated as a house plant. The plant has rich green foliage and a pink-orange flower. Sometimes referred to as "dumbcane," the plant is also toxic and has historically been used as a torture device to keep people from talking because it swells the tongue.
All parts of the plant are poisonous. If broken open, the plant will ooze a milky sap. This sap contains a toxin called calcium oxalate. Calcium oxalate is found in tiny crystals which, when coming in contact with skin, cause itching and burning. The plant's sap also contains proteolytic enzymes that can produce histamines, causing a serious allergic reaction in some individuals.
If a pet bites into the plant, the animal will likely react to the discomfort inside the mouth. Typical reactions include shaking the head or rubbing at the face and mouth with the paws. Effected animals may also create excess amounts of saliva or foam at the mouth, appear overly thirsty and have visible swelling of the lips and tongue. Severe reaction in animals is rare, because the burning sensation created by biting the plant deters them from further ingestion.
Humans who bite into the plant typically experience irritation of the mouth, tongue and throat. This may turn into a serious allergic reaction if the throat swells to the point that it makes breathing difficult or impossible. Ingestion can also cause stomach bloating and cramps. Handling the plant can, over an extended period of time, also cause skin irritation as the chemical irritants are absorbed through the skin.
Call poison control immediately if ingestion is suspected, to receive specific instruction for how to handle the situation. If breathing is affected, you will likely need to secure the airway immediately. Rinsing the mouth with cool water may lessen the irritation.
No further treatment is needed in most cases. An analgesic may be prescribed to help with the physical discomfort. Ice, or other cold compresses, can be used to treat the swelling experienced. It is extremely important to prevent further exposure. The plant should be moved out of the reach of the animal or person who ate the plant, so that repeated poisoning cannot occur.