Deadly plants – These plants could kill you
Plants bring our gardens to life, and many are used to produce medicinal drugs. But there are some plants that can kill you. Literally. And, as you’re about to see, you can’t always judge a plant by its cover: eating the seeds, fruit, or leaves, for example, of a completely harmless-looking specimen could leave you dead within hours.
Victorin’s water-hemlock (Cicuta maculata)
If you should come across a wild plant that resembles edible parsnip or celery, keep your distance! You may have stumbled upon Victorin’s water-hemlock, the most poisonous plant in North America.
A member of the same family as the plant that killed Socrates, Victorin’s water-hemlock contains high levels of cicutoxin. In addition to numerous unpleasant symptoms, such as abdominal cramps, convulsions, and nausea, this toxin can also lead to death.
Surviving a case of poisoning doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of the woods; many people are left with amnesia and tremors.
The roots are the most toxic part of the plant.
Deadly plants – Castor bean (Ricinus communis)
At a glance, castor bean appears to be your run-of-the-mill herbaceous plant. Don’t be fooled. Native to Africa, this plant produces seeds containing a highly toxic protein called ricin.
Ricin is so poisonous that it would take only two to four castor-bean seeds to kill a child and roughly twice that amount to kill an adult. Other symptoms of ricin poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, and convulsions.
In 1978, Bulgarian journalist Georgi Markov was poisoned with a lethal dose of ricin.
Deadly plants – Oleander (Nerium oleander)
Do you have an oleander plant at home? If you happen to have young children, it might be wise to get rid of this indoor shrub.
The plant’s stems and leaves contain oleandrin, a toxic substance that can cause abdominal pains, diarrhea, dizziness, irritation of the mouth, nausea, drowsiness, coma, and death.
Wild oleander poses a danger to animals. Bees that gather nectar from its flowers risk producing contaminated honey, which can make a person sick if ingested.
Deadly plants – Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna)
As early as the 13th century, the likes of Saint Hildegard warned against eating the fruit of deadly nightshade, a plant long associated with black magic.
Indeed appetizing in appearance (reminiscent of small black cherries), its fruit is extremely poisonous. It contains the toxins atropine and scopolamine, which cause paralysis of the muscles and, in some cases, of the heart.
The leaves and roots of deadly nightshade should also be avoided. Simple physical contact with the plant’s leaves will cause skin irritation.
In addition, the naturally occurring toxins in its sap are lethal in high doses.
Deadly plants – Monkshood (Aconitum napellus)
Monkshood is easily distinguished by its violet blooms, but don’t be fooled by this plant’s beauty—it’s highly toxic! There’s a reason it’s been used as a poison since ancient times.
According to Greek mythology, monkshood comes from the slaver dripping from the fangs of Cerberus, the formidable three-headed hound that Hercules was forced to confront.
In 183 BC, to avoid capture by the Romans, Hannibal is said to have taken his own life by ingesting a poisonous mixture containing monkshood. During the Renaissance, the Borgias were fond of using this plant for its poison.
In addition to being fatal when ingested, monkshood can cause agitation, weakness, tingling, tightening of the throat, nausea, and vomiting.
Here’s one I plant:
Deadly plants – Lantana (Lantana camara)
You may already have encountered lantana if you’ve ever visited a plant nursery. Originating in the Antilles, this plant is distinguished chiefly by its dark green leaves and purple, white, and yellow flowers.
Lantana is lovely to look at, but you should never eat its leaves or unripe fruit. In addition to death, they can cause vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, lethargy, cyanosis, and coma.
And this one. Who knew?
Deadly plants – American mistletoe (Phoradendron flavescens)
American mistletoe is ubiquitous during the holidays as a popular decoration.
If you have children, make sure they aren’t tempted to eat its leaves or fruit, which can cause severe poisoning.
In addition to symptoms resembling those of gastroenteritis, mistletoe can cause cardiac arrest and death.
(I guess it’s ok to kiss under it, just don’t eat it.)
To read the article by Philippe Michaud, which includes more plants, click below: