Plants are one of the most beautiful parts of nature and come in a seemingly endless variety of shapes, colors and sizes. But not all of them are as harmless as they might seem, we look at the 10 most poisonous plants in the world.
10 Angel’s Trumpet (Brugmansia)
This plant gets its name from its flowers which grow in a shape similar to a trumpet. Or is it because you hear the sound of a trumpet when you’ve ingested a fatal dose?
That could just be anecdotal based on the fact that consuming this plant can cause severe hallucinations and delirium.
The hallucinogenic properties are so potent that many have actually experimented with it as a recreational drug.
Clearly that never took off, but it is used by some shamans.
Shaman from the Urarina people in the Peruviaan Amazon Basin have been known to use the plant both as an external treatment for aches and pain and internally to induce vomiting or even to cure unruly children.
9 The Suicide Tree (Cerbera odollam)
With a name like “suicide tree” you can imagine this one’s pretty deadly. Its white and red flowers on the other hand are quite marvelous. It’s really a fascinating contrast.
Usually growing only in salt swamps and marshlands, the suicide tree itself isn’t actually dangerous.
What gives it its name are its seeds. Inside these little things is a toxin called cerberin. When ingested it disrupts the heartbeat and causes irregular heart rhythm which ultimately leads to death, making this tree a true heartbreaker.
8 Monkshood (Aconitum)
Buttercups are extremely pretty especially with the variety of colors they come in. You may even have some in your own garden. But this particular type of buttercup is extremely deadly as well as beautiful. Named after its shape and its often deep purple color, monkshood has caused many deaths worldwide.
It contains a toxic alkaloid known as aconite which slows down the heart when consumed. Eventually the heart slows to such a point that it simply stops.
Luckily you won’t consider swallowing it due to its unpleasant odor and bitter taste. But many people still get poisoned by it. Mainly because of its use as an ornamental piece in high-profile gardens, gardeners who have an open wound on their hand can ingest the poison without even knowing it.
It is also known as mousebane, wolf’s bane and the Queen of all Poisons!
7 Hemlock (Conium)
This plant looks like a harmless shrub. Its dainty white flowers really wouldn’t give you the slightest clue that its poisonous either.
But judging this book by its cover will actually leave you breathless. Hemlock contains a powerful toxin called coniine which has been known to cause respiratory failure and typically results in death.
One of the scariest things about it is that the entire plant is full of this poison from the stem to the flowers. The seeds have the highest concentration of it though.
One very interesting thing to note is that it is in fact a member of the carrot family. It’s one strange carrot indeed.
6 Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna)
Another pretty purple flower to watch out for is the deadly nightshade. As its name suggests, this plant is deadly.
Frankly you’d probably be pretty disappointed if it wasn’t. From its flowers to its stem, every single aspect of this plant is highly toxic.
But most people don’t eat flowers and stems so you might think nightshade poisoning isn’t all that common. Well think again.
The deadly nightshade plant also grows berries which are just as toxic as the rest of the plant.
Unfortunately the berries look appetizing and are actually very sweet. This means children pick and eat them as a tasty snack while playing outdoors.
When it only takes a few berries to kill a human, the idea of your children coming across this plant may leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Also commonly known as belladonna, it has been used since Roman times both as an anaesthetic and a poison.
5 White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima)
Growing up to 1.5 meters tall makes this plant one of the larger ones discussed so far. It’s also one of the most well known.
Containing a dangerous poison known as tremetol, this plant has been known through the years for killing many people.
A green shrubby looking plant, white snakeroot gets its name by budding into small white flowers at the top. This makes it easily mistaken as a weed which can actually be a huge problem.
Many farm animals such as cows will eat it, causing the poison to get in their bloodstream, and when we consume products from those animals the poison goes into us.
This is where the term “milk sickness” was coined as people drank the milk from a cow that had eaten the plant.
In fact, it’s thought that milk sickness was the primary cause of Abraham Lincoln’s mother’s death, giving this plant a place in the history books.
4 Castor Beans (Ricinus communis)
These little beans are typically known for their use in creating castor oil. But there’s actually a lot more to them than that.
They’re also known for containing a natural poison called ricin. If you’ve ever watched the popular TV show Breaking Bad you’re probably familiar with it.
When consumed even in small doses, ricin is known to cause seizures and eventually death.
Because it’s so easy to acquire and produce, ricin has been used in many suicide as well as assassination attempts.
It’s really interesting how this bean can produce something we absolutely need while at the same time producing something which can kill us.
3 Rosary Peas (Abrus precatorius)
Don’t let their beauty fool you, these berries pack a serious punch.
Getting their name from their use in various different jewelleries as well as prayer rosaries, the seeds of these berries are extremely toxic.
Inside the seeds is a poison called abrin which is a powerful toxin that can kill a full grown adult with only a tiny dose of 3 micrograms.
Abrin works by ceasing the protein synthesis of cells which in the end results in massive organ failure.
Luckily the seeds only release the toxin when they’re scratched or crushed.
But this doesn’t prevent people from accidentally ingesting the poison while working with it.
Many jewellers poison themselves when crafting products with rosary peas.
So if you ever come across something that’s made with these, you may want to stop and pray for the person who made it.
Symptoms include vomiting, liver failure and death within a few days.
Poisonous to horses as well as human, they are also known as love pea, player bead, John Crow Bead, cock’s eye and crab’s eye.
2 Oleander (Nerium)
Another beautiful plant which often finds itself as an ornamental piece in gardens is oleander.
With its stunning pink flowers, it’s pretty obvious why it has such a place.
But ingesting this pretty flower is never a good idea. It contains a poison called oleandrin, named after the plant as it’s the only place this toxin is found.
Oldeandrin can be deadly even in the smallest of doses, causing stomach problems and also affecting the cardiovascular system.
Death can come swiftly after consumption and usually happens from cardiac arrest or a fatal seizure.
But there may be another use for this plant aside from being a deadly garden ornament. Scientists are actually researching using oleander extracts to treat different types of cancer.
Going from a poison to a medicine is a really interesting step. Then again, the two have never been too far apart.
Urban legends and folk tales often tell of entire families being killed after roasting their food over a fire using Oleander sticks.
1 Tobacco Plant (Nicotiana)
It may surprise you to know that the most dangerous plant in the world is one that people consume every day.
The tobacco plant is poisonous from its stem to its leaves, containing several toxic alkaloids such as nicotine and anabasine.
These alkaloids attack the cardiovascular system and cause serious damage to the heart. Simply eating a leaf from a tobacco plant can kill you almost instantly. Yet people enjoy smoking it due to the euphoric feeling it produces.
It’s degree of lethality may be statistical, due simply to the fact that people are so regularly in contact with it.
It’s estimated however that tobacco kills millions of people every year while the next most dangerous plant might never kill that many people even over thousands of years.
So it could be a good idea to think twice about what’s in a cigarette before picking one up. You wouldn’t eat an oleander pedal or a nightshade berry so how is this any different?
Nature is Competitive
The sheer variety of poisonous plants and venomous animals reminds us how competitive nature is and how desperate the fight for survival can be.
Have you ever come across any of these or other poisonous plants? Let us know in the comments.