Nine most toxic plants for humans

Tony Leather | January 20, 2011

You may love flowers, colorful and gay, helping to brighten up your life, but you should always bear in mind that not all pretty blooms are as innocent as they might appear.  Some plants which are regularly placed in gardens are anything but friendly, and that decorative bush might easily be the death of you, quite literally, if you happened to ingest it. Poisonous plants, toxic to humans, are more common than you might think.

1.The calamitous Castor bean plant

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In California, USA, most gardens have one or two of these plants as decoration, despite the castor bean being classed as the most poisonous plant on earth, containing, as it does, the compound Ricin, so toxic that the amount contained in a single bean would kill a human in just a few minutes, and there is no antidote. Castor oil, hated by children but beloved of mothers,  has been made safe by having had  the lethal compound removed.  This plant may look good, but take heed

2. The secretive Spurge laurel

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The Daphne, copse or spurge laurel is a woodland plant usually, but planted profusely throughout Europe as an ornamental shrub in gardens. It has very attractive, waxy leaves and gloriously scented flowers, but holds a dark secret. If you should eat either the leaves or red or yellow fruits, you will ingest the toxin mezerein, and nausea and violent vomiting will shortly be followed by severe internal bleeding, coma and death shortly thereafter. Not a pleasant plant, by any stretch of the imagination.

3. The deceptive Rosary pea plant

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The Rosary Pea, also often planted as a decorative addition to gardens, is actually one of the world’s most dangerous plants, Thebright  red berries hold seeds, which all contain a lectin poison called abrin, so toxic that, if swallowed or chewed will result in almost immediate death. One of the most lethal known poisons, Abrin causes severe vomiting, high fever, drooling, highly elevated levels of nervous tension, liver failure, bladder failure, bleeding from the eyes and convulsive seizures. This decorative plant is truly deadly.

4. The popular, poisonous Oleander plant

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Perhaps the deadliest plant on earth is the ever popular Oleander.  Widely planted as a decorative shrub, this plant is so toxic that one single leaf couln kill an adult human, while poisoning fatalities are known about that  have involved exposure, on a small scale, to twigs, blooms or  berries. Oleander plants harbor several lethal toxins, such as neroside, saponins and oleandroside, as well as cardiac glycosides. These toxns go to work quickly, upon ingestion, shutting down the cardio-vascular and nervous systems, afer causing severe nausea and projectile vomiting. Truly a beautiful, but thoroughly deadly decoration for your garden.

5. The wicked Water hemlock plant

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This is a North American plant that sometimes could be used in floral arrangements, but is without a doubt the most violently toxic plant on the continental USA.  Also called the poison parsnip, the woody roots of the plant contain huge amounts of deadly sap, rich in the convulsant toxin Cicutoxin. The tiniest quantity of this stuff, if ingested, will result in violent Grand Mal fitting, followed ver soon after by a horrible death. This is not a plant you want anywhere near your garden.

6 The not so jolly Jimson weed plant

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Known by some as the Devils Trumpet, Thorn Apple, or Locoweed , Jimson weed produces pretty flowers and is found all over the USA, often in gardens. These plants have been used medicinally, and as an intoxicant for hundreds of years. But with active ingredient toxins similar to Belladonna, namely atropine, hyoscyamine and scopalomine, the chances are that, right before  your heart stops, you will experience hot flushes, accelerated heartbeat, impaired co-ordination and incoherent speech, should you ingest too much of it. Every part of this plant contains dangerous poison levels,  so it should be left well alone. Look by all means, but do not touch.

7. The murderous Moonseed plant

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Eastern North America is where this stone fruit plant is normally found, and it is extremely toxic for humans, if ingested, though birds can eat them. Full of the alkaloid toxin dauracine, the whole plant is poisonous, though the attractive berries of this plant, if eaten by mistake, cause paralysis when first eaten, fatal if treatment is not sought immediately.  They have, on occasion, been mistaken by people foraging for wild grapes, but fruits of Canada Moonseed can be fatal., so care needs to be taken.

8. The horribly deadly Wintersweet

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Wintersweet, also known as Bushman’s poison, is a native plant of South Africa, though it does get planted in gardens globally during summer months, because the plant produces pleasantly scented flowers and plum-like berries. The Khoisan  people of South Africa have used the milky sap to poison the tips of their arrows. It is the milky sap that can be fatal, causing seizures, convulsions and inevitably death in high enough doses.  The leaves are said o have have medicinal properties, but all in all, this is a garden flower to avoid.

9. The truly badass Bloodflower plant

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Also known as the Catherine Wheel, Poison Root, or Fireball Lily,  this plant is again African, and only seen in greenhouses in Europe, but this plant is horribly dangerous.  African countries such as Angola and the Central African Republic are places where the bloodflower is used, together with several other plants,  poisoning arrows. Though the plant bulb is used medicinally, for the treatment of dropsy and scabies in some counties,. South Africans more commonly use it to treat coughs, gastro-intestinal problems and during pregnancy, to ensure a safe delivery.  The alkaloids involved, however, are highly toxic in higher doses and potentially lethal.  Really not a plant to mess around with.

All images used with permission.