Some plant’s potential to harm us has featured prominently in film and literature, as well as history. Plant poison is the stuff of “who dunnits” and scary flora are found in such plots as Little Shop of Horrors. You don’t have to possess an Audrey II to find yourself faced with sinister plants though.
Some of our most common plants could show us the dark side of nature if we don’t approach them with caution.
Poisonous plants have a well-established place in history, both for their potential to harm, but also occasionally for their ability to heal. A little bit of some plants can actually be a boon but you must approach with caution, as these dangerous garden denizens can also kill you. Such knowledge is best left to a professional, but you can still enjoy them in the garden and nature, just with an excess of prudence. Learn what plants to avoid to keep your family safe and still enjoy all nature has to offer.
Famous novels and movies often include the use of a plant toxin in the commission of a murder. The ability to inflict harm or even death is a common thread in mysteries and a historical saga that comes up in modern crime occasionally. Take the case of Georgi Markov who died from ricin. The toxin comes from the rather pretty castor bean plant and causes an excruciating death within days.
Other classic plant poisons are cyanide, oleander, belladonna, nightshade, hemlock, and strychnine. These can all kill, but sinister plants don’t have to be deadly to harm. Take asparagus, for example. Just a few berries can cause nausea and pain, a fate worth avoiding.
Even the foods that we eat can contain toxic compounds. These were likely developed by plants to deter insects or browsing animals. Tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers are all in the nightshade family, a very toxic and sometimes deadly group of poisonous edibles.
Cyanide can kill but, in small doses, it just makes us sick. Common plants that contain cyanide include:
Less scary but no less dangerous are plants with oxalic acid, such as spinach and rhubarb. The acid can cause kidney disorders, convulsions, and in acute situations, coma.
A famous garden with deadly plants is the Alnwick Garden in England. It is filled with plants that can kill and must be viewed with a staff member or through the great iron gates. Every plant in the beautiful garden has high doses of poison. Yet, it is a lovely garden and one where many of our commonly grown perennials and bushes reside.
Common laurel hedges mingle with more dangerous plants such as angel’s trumpets, foxglove, and lily of the valley.
Landscape plants that we are familiar with can harm too. Calla lily, azalea, mountain laurel, larkspur, morning glory, privet, and boxwood are found in many yards and can cause harm. The key is to know what plants to avoid and, if you don’t, do not touch, smell, or eat anything with which you are unfamiliar.
No matter how cute and lovable your furry friends are, they can make a mess of your precious garden space. Cats and dogs are both capable of doing not-so-nice things like pulling up your plants, digging up soil, making your green turf turn yellow, and a whole lot of other things. Also, some plants can be dangerous to your pets, even when they’re perfectly safe for you! So it’s important to make a pet-safe garden.
If you already have a garden and are planning to bring a pet home, this guide is for you. On the other hand, if you already have a pet at home and you want to start gardening, it’s highly advisable that you go through the tips provided here as well.
Taking care of your pets and garden at the same time is not a simple task, but it can be done. It’s essential to keep both your garden and your pets safe — the former from mischievous cats and dogs and the latter from toxic plants.
“Dangerous” might be a strong word, but chewing on these plants could cause your puppy some discomfort, and you certainly want to avoid that! I’m glad you found the video helpful.
Very informative video. As I have a young puppy, I am on the lookout for anything dangerous. Nothing seems immune to his desire to chew. The puppy trainer had told our class that nothing organic would hurt our little ones. Boy, was she wrong.
It may be that it’s a little knowledge that’s a dangerous thing. Tempting anyway
Did you see Anne’s comment? I have to admit that for a fleeting moment I envisioned a perimeter of poison hemlock to keep out the rabbits.
Up to this point, I thought the deer recognized and avoided dangerous plants. They steer clear of foxglove and monkshood but they have nibbled on the hydrangeas. Apparently not enough to do them any harm since the herd keeps growing.
Oh, Anne, I hope you’ll forgive me, but I laughed right out loud when I read this. This is something I would do, and it’s way funnier since I wasn’t the one who had to do battle with such a toxic plant.
I’m working on a way to set up a forum on this website. People would be able to post photos of plants they can’t identify. Other readers who are familiar with the plant could respond. Of course, people could post questions and trade tips, too. I hope to have that live within a couple months.
Thank you for this very informative reminder that our plant companions can actually be quite dangerous.
Two years ago in Spring, the most gorgeous little plant insinuated itself into my garden. It had lacy, fern-like foliage and the stem had purple streaks. I took a picture and submitted it for identification, and let it grow, delighting daily in its beautiful form.
As it approached 6 and a half feet, my inquiry was responded to, and it was identified as poison hemlock. Yikes! The plant that Socrates was executed with. All parts of the plant are highly toxic. The beauty had to die, and I covered myself head to toe and carefully removed it, grateful that I discovered it’s true identity before it produced hundreds of seeds.
Common Name: Giant Hogweed
Botanical Name: Heracleum mantegazzianum
Height: 2 to 5 m (6 ft 7 in to 16 ft 5 in) depending on its environment.
Areas affected: Gardens and allotments adjacent to infested woodland, heathland, common land wasteland.
Main Causes Sreading: Spreads by seed
Invasive: Spreads by seed
Timing: Seen spring to autumn treat in summer
Giant Hogweed ( Botanical name: Heracleum Mantegazzianum )
Giant Hogweed is a relative of and looks very similar to an overgrown native Cow Parsley plant that is often seen along rural road verges and pathways. Please note that Cow Parsley can also grow to about 6ft, but is often seen when it is only 3-5 feet tall. Hogweed is also a relative of the Carrot… It is not unusual for Hogweed and Cow Parsley to occupy the same area
Identifying Giant Hogweed:A giant hogweed is often very easy to identify because of its height. It grows vigorously in the early stages of its life. Other clues to identification are important, though, especially for a shorter or an immature plant. Some of these clues are listed below. The plant has:- Giant hogweed typically grows to heights of 2 to 5 m (6 ft 7 in to 16 ft 5 in) depending on its environment. - The Large leaves are incised / Serrated and deeply lobed. ( Think of a Fat Cannabis type leaves). - A mature plant has huge leaves, between 1–1.5 m (3 ft 3 in–4 ft 11 in) wide, and a stout, bright green stem with extensive dark reddish-purple splotches and prominent coarse white hairs on the stem and especially at the base of the leaf stalk. These coarse white hairs can act like an injection and administering sap when touched. - Its hollow, ridged stems vary from 3–8 cm (1.2–3.1 in) in diameter, occasionally up to 10 cm (3.9 in) in diameter and can grow to more than 4 m (13 ft) high. (although the hollow stem element may not be obvious without breaking the stem and being exposed to the sap)- Green Stems that often have Dark Red / Purple spots on the stem. - The Stems have Ridges and coarse hairs. - The umbrella-shaped inflorescence, called a compound umbel, may be up to 100 cm (39 in) in diameter across its flat top. - The flowers are white or greenish white and may be radially symmetrical or strongly bilaterally symmetrical (zygomorphic). - Small white flowers in a flattened or slightly domed cluster has up to fifty or more rays per flower cluster. - a flower cluster that is / can be as wide as two and a half feet.- The fruits are schizocarps, producing seeds in dry, flattened, oval pairs. - Each seed is approximately 1 cm (0.39 in) in length, with a broadly rounded base and broad marginal ridges, tan in colour with brown lines (so-called oil tubes) extending 3/4 of the length of the seed. - It's important to remember that some plants in a species may have an atypical appearance. If you have any doubt about the identity of a plant, admire it from a distance and don't touch it.Heracleum Mantegazzianum: is also known as: - Cartwheel-Flower - Giant Cow Parsley - Giant Cow Parsnip - Hogsbane (In New Zealand)- Wild Parsnip (not to be confused with Pastinaca sativa or wild rhubarb).
Although the plant is striking and can be attractive in certain situations, it was introduced to ornamental gardens in the 19th century from its native environment of Eastern Europe and Asia. Most gardeners will want to eradicate it, as it is potentially invasive and the sap can cause severe skin burns. It is widely distributed in the wild and poses a serious risk to people who are unaware of its potential for harm. Even if you are aware of the plant it is easy to be looking at the bigger more established plants and not realising that you are brushing past Hogweed leaves without its main stem that are closer to the ground. If you are wearing shorts you can guarantee that you could be brushing past them. This is why you need to steer clear of them and make sure your children also stay away. As they will normally love to run around and through them and they will often handle the stems.
There are about four other Giant Hogweeds in Britain some are biennial and others are perennial.Giant Hogweeds are usually referred to by one name, Heracleum Mantegazzianum.
In Europe there are more than 20 species of the genus Heracleum that have been documented. Identification of Heracleum mantegazzianum is further complicated by the presence of two additional tall invasive hogweed species: - Heracleum Sosnowskyi
Bittersweet nightshade belongs to the nightshade family, which is known for being poisonous.
Many yards across North America have some bittersweet nightshade weeds growing in them, typically along a fence. The wild birds eat the berries and distribute the seeds around in their poop.
Children are tempted to eat bittersweet nightshade berries (Solanum dulcamara) because they're so pretty, displaying a bunch of different colors all at once. The berries change color as they mature. Green at the start, then yellow, orange, and finally, red.
Attracted as kids are to the berries of these poisonous plants, it's only a matter of time until they eat a few just to try them. If the amount eaten is small enough, the experience may be relatively harmless. But there's no reason for parents to risk it.