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These 10 Innocent Looking Poisonous Plants Could Kill You!

Most of the plants are docile beings. The cute flowers, juicy fruits, and medicinal leaves have drawn us to them for ages. But, but, but, several plants may look cute but are deadly. Many of us can’t recognize them and may end up nurturing them in our backyards. What’s worse is that most of the poisonous plants are breathtaking. They are as deadly as they are beautiful.

Be careful of what you are growing in your garden, and keep your toddlers and furry friends away and safe from them. Just to help you achieve that, today, we are listing down ten innocent-looking plants that can kill you.

#1. Castor Oil Plant – Ricinus communis

castor oil seeds - 10 most poisonous plants

Castor Oil Plant, being the first, is not a surprise if you know that the Guinness Book of World Records honors it for being the world’s most poisonous plant. Surprisingly this plant grows all over the world, and you can find them almost everywhere around you. 

Castor oil is good for humans, but the poisonous part of the plant is the seeds. The seeds contain a potent toxin called ricin (hence the name Ricinus). 

Four to eight seeds are good enough for an adult human to succumb to death within hours or days, depending on the favorable conditions provided for the toxin to act on the body. One seed is good enough for a child to die. 

If a person swallows the seed, it doesn’t have any effect because the seed’s shell is pretty hard. The problem arises when a person chews it properly and eats it. 

Symptoms include burning feeling in the mouth and throat, extreme abdominal pain, diarrhea with blood in it, seizures, nausea, hypotension, tachycardia, and eventually death. 

#2. The Suicide Tree – Cerbera odollam

cerebra odollam
Cerbera odollam – CC BY-SA 3.0

The name is enough for us to understand how toxic it is for humans. It is also known as mintolla, pong-pong, and othalam. It is native to India and other countries of southern Asia. It belongs to the family of oleander, another poisonous plant. Its appearance is similar to that of oleander. 

Of all the poisonous plants, this has to be the silent killer. The natural taste of the toxin, cerebrin, can be overcome with adding spices in a dish. Cerebrin is also overlooked in most of the autopsies, making it a perfect murder weapon. 

Thanks to these characteristics, French forensic toxicologists have declared that the suicide tree is the most used plant for suicides and murders. 

Why did the French toxicologists conclude that? They identified over 500 deaths due to the plant from 1989 to 1999 in Kerala alone (a state in India). 

A single kernel is enough to put a man down in one to two days. It blocks the Calcium channels, thereby fatally disrupting the heartbeat. Hence, the deaths caused by the plant looks like death due to heart attack or heart failure. 

Symptoms include violent vomiting, burning sensation in the mouth, headaches, respiration problems, thrombocytopenia, irregular heartbeat, coma, and death. 

#3. Little Apple of Death – Hippomane Mancinella

Little Apple of Death - 10 most poisonous plants
Hippomane Mancinella – CC BY-SA 3.0

Like its peers, it is known by multiple names such as Manchineel, beach apple, manzanilla de la Muerte (meaning little apple of death in Spanish), etc. It is endemic to Florida, parts of the Caribbean, and South America.  It is honored as the most dangerous plant on the earth and holds the Guinness World Record. 

It is one of the deadliest poisonous plants. It is so dangerous that not just ingesting it or touching it, but inhaling the air standing underneath it causes immense damage. It produces a white sap (which contains phorbol toxin, a carcinogen) which, when comes in contact with the skin, causes blisters, and can turn the person blind. 

You can’t even take shade under it when it rains. If the runoff (mixed with white sap) touches your skin, it causes blisters almost instantly. The tree has a delicious-looking fruit. It tastes nice at first and then turns to be fatal within minutes of consuming it. It causes burning, tightness, and tearing sensation in the throat. 

Thinking of burning the tree down so that no one can suffer? Then get ready to face ocular issues because burning the tree releases toxins, and when the smoke reaches your eyes, it damages them and even causes blindness. The smoke causes respiratory problems as well. 

Thankfully, in places like French Antilles and Curaçao, warning signs are provided for people not to get close to the plant. It is wise to stay away from this plant. 

#4. Hemlock – Conium maculatum

Conium maculatum – CC BY-SA 4.0

It has to be one of the famous poisonous plants all over the world. It is native to North Africa and Europe and was popularized by Greeks as a tool for execution. One of the famous personalities to be executed by hemlock is Socrates. 

Some of the famous hemlock names are devil’s porridge, poison parsley, poison hemlock, carrot fern, spotted corobane, and devil’s bread. Eating as less as 5 to 6 leaves will kill a person with ease. If going for roots, then a smaller dose than the leaves is sufficient to do the job. 

It attacks the muscles, causes paralysis starting from the legs, and gradually moving up, paralyzing the respiratory organs and muscles and causing death. It also impacts the kidneys. It causes a drop in temperature in calves. 

Don’t be in a notion that ingestion alone is harmful. Similar to the little apple of death, inhaling and touching can cause poisoning. It is good to stay away from it all the time, but it is necessary to keep a healthy distance from it during the spring season as the poison levels peak in the season. 

#5. Queen of Poisons – Aconitum

Queen of Poisons - 10 most poisonous plants
Aconitum – CC BY 2.5

This poisonous plants’ species is known by several names like aconite, women’s bane, devil’s helmet, blue rocket, leopard’s bane, wolf’s-bane, mousebane, and monkshood. It is native to most of the countries’ mountain meadows that dwell in the northern hemisphere.

Its poison was used for the poison arrows that humans used for hunting. The toxin, pseudoactinite, can paralyze an animal for quite a long time, which helped the hunters. 

The poisonous parts of Aconitum are the roots and tubers. It is both a neurotoxin and a cardiotoxin meaning it attacks both brian and heart. 20 to 40 ml of tincture can prove to be fatal. 

The symptoms are a sensation of burning, numbness, and tingling in the mouth, the face, and the abdomen, vomiting, diarrhea, hypotension, sweating, headache, confusion, dizziness, and difficulty in breathing, and finally, death. Just like the suicide tree, the post mortem reports don’t show poisoning. 

The symptoms appear almost instantaneously or at the maximum within one hour. In severe cases, the person may die in just 2 to 6 hours. 

#6. Rosary Pea – Abrus precatorius

Rosary Pea
Abrus precatorius – Public Domain

It is also known as the Crab’s Eye and Jequirity, love pea, prayer bead, Indian licorice, Akar saga, weather plant, red-bead wine, Jumbie bead, etc. It seriously has a lot of names!

The name (Rosary) may evoke a spiritual feeling in many of us but trust us; this plant is deadly. They are named so because of their use as beads for ornamental purposes in rosaries. They are a popular jewelry item used all over the world. In India, the seed is used as a unit of measurement for measuring gold. 

It’s better not to be fooled by its name because just a single seed can kill an adult in only 36 hours that is less than two days! Thankfully, just holding the seeds won’t harm you in any way. For the toxin to act, the shell must be broken, and then either you have to ingest or inhale the seed. You can even swallow (without chewing), and it goes out of your body undigested. 

However, if chewed, you will have a tough time vomiting, experiencing convulsions, nausea, and liver failure. Death occurs if left untreated for days. 

The toxin, abrin, is more poisonous than ricin, but it acts slowly on the body than ricin. It buys the much needed time to visit a hospital and get cured. 

#7. Angel’s Trumpet – Brugmansia

Angel's trumpet - 10 most poisonous plants
Brugmansia – CC BY-SA 3.0

It is not a single plant but a whole genus with seven species out there to get us. They are deadly but have huge, cute-looking pendulous flowers. These plants are famously used as ornamental plants! 

Just in case you are wondering about the size of the flowers, they are 50 centimeters long and 35 centimeters wide. Scientists gave the nickname angel’s trumpet because of the blossoms. 

All parts of the plant are deadly, but its seeds and leaves are fatal. The plant has a lot of toxins like scopolamine, hyoscamine, etc. 

Most of the drugs give you a high that is not at all healthy but a little pleasurable. But this angel guy is so different. If a person eats its leaves or seeds, he will experience constipation, confusion, delusions, tremors, smooth muscle paralysis, auditory and visual hallucinations, tachycardia, mydriasis, and eventually death. 

The hallucinations and delusions are so intense that the person doesn’t realize that he is hallucinating. He loses his sanity until the toxin is effective. 

One actual incident is recorded where a man has cut off his tongue and penis after having a cup of Angel’s trumpet’s tea. Did you remember the character Mason of the Hannibal series? Mason was given a similar kind of drug by Dr. Lecter. Check out our article on 10 psychological thrillers to know more such fantastic thriller movies. 

The toxins level varies from one part of the plant to the other, from one season to the other season, and even on the level of hydration. What does this mean? Stay AWAY from this plant all round the year! Period. 

#8. Oleander – Nerium

Oleander – CC BY 2.5

It is one of the most used shrubs for ornamental purposes, even after it is perilous. Oleander is seen almost everywhere – be it parks, backyards, and schools. It is widely seen in the western and southern regions of the USA. 

It is beautiful, isn’t it? Hence, it is used popularly as a decorative shrub. What’s wrong with that? Nothing except for the fact that it is super dangerous.

The poison is present in every part of the plant, and it affects your body if you chew on any part of it. It doesn’t affect rodents, birds but dogs, cats, humans, etc. are sensitive to the plant’s toxins. 

It affects the alimentary canal, the CNS (Central Nervous System), and the heart. 

Symptoms include vomiting, abdominal pain, excess salivation, increased heart rate (which falls below normal after some time), drowsiness, seizures, tremors, coma, and eventually death (if not treated at the right time).

The sap of the plant can cause eye and skin irritation and inflammation. Drying doesn’t do anything. Even dry parts of the plant can kill. One hundred grams of dried oleander is good enough to kill an adult horse!

However, on the brighter side, there are very few cases (human) that lead to death. 

#9. Stinging Brush – Dendrocnide moroides

Gympie gympie - 10 most poisonous plants
Dendrocnide moroides – CC BY 3.0

It is famously known as stinger, moonlighter, gympie stinger, gympie gympie, the suicide plant, and mulberry-leaved stinger. You can find this plant in Indonesia and north-east Australia. 

The flowers and the heart-shaped leaves look cute, but they will literally leave you in pain for years! If you accidentally or deliberately touch the twigs or the leaves, the hairs present on them break, enter your skin, and inject the toxins into your system.

You will have to bear extreme amounts of pain for the next few days. The pain recurs in the coming months to a lesser degree, though. Seems okay? We are not done yet. 

The pain recurs every time you touch the area (which came in contact with the plant), wash it with water, etc. It may pain even when there is a temperature change. This recurring pain can continue for years. 

Workers who cut this plant have to wear a proper respiratory mask else; they will experience runny noses, sneezing, throat irritation, and even nasal bleeding.  Passersby are also at risk of inhaling the shed needles and experiencing rashes and nasal bleeding. 

#10. Dumbcane – Dieffenbachia

Dumbcane - 10 most poisonous plants
Dieffenbachia – CC BY-SA 4.0

It is a tropical plant native to the West Indies, Argentina, and Mexico. It is infamously known as mother-in-law’s tongue. This has to be the least of all the poisonous plants out on this list.

The cells of the plant contain raphides, which are calcium oxalate crystals. These are the ones that are toxic to humans and pets. When you chew the leaves, it causes swelling, excessive drooling, burning sensation in the throat, intense numbing, etc. 

It is rarely fatal (even to pets and children) and can be treated with antihistamines, analgesic agents, and medical charcoal. 

In severe cases, the person experiences severe pain, but he has to be in contact with the plant for quite a long time for such severity to take place. 

Sources: Mental Floss, Tree Hugger, BBC, Good House Keeping, Wiki Nursery Live, io9 Gizmodo

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