Houseplants play several beneficial roles in our home environment. They provide visual interest to the home, purify the air, and may be edible or medicinal.
Some common plants are a common staple in kitchens, such as Aloe Vera, which is praised for its easy care, beautiful shape, and soothing gel. However, even such commonly grown and useful plants may be toxic.
Toxic plants can be a hazard to children and pets, as well as to elderly persons with dementia. Whereas it is advisable to keep all plants out of the reach of those who might crush, eat, or taste them, it is not always possible to prevent accidental encounters.
If you’re worried your loved ones may ingest your houseplants, you may want to keep the plants in this article out of your house.
- Deadly Nightshade
According to legend, Macbeth’s soldiers poisoned the invading Danes with wine made from the sweet fruit of deadly nightshade. Indeed, it is the sweetness of the berries that often lures children and unwitting adults to consume this lethal plant. A native of wooded or waste areas in central and southern Eurasia, deadly nightshade has dull green leaves and shiny black berries about the size of cherries. Nightshade contains atropine and scopolamine in its stems, leaves, berries, and roots, and causes paralysis in the involuntary muscles of the body, including the heart. Even physical contact with the leaves may cause skin irritation.
- Rosary Pea
Rosary pea contains abrin, which is an extremely toxic ribosome-inhibiting protein. This plant is used in jewelry and prayer rosaries around the world. Numerous jewelry makers have died after pricking a finger while working with the seeds. The poison contained in the seed, abrin, is a close relative of ricin which prevents protein synthesis within cells and can cause organ failure.
Described by Pliny the Elder in Ancient Rome,oleander is a beautiful plant known for its striking flowers. Though commonly grown as a hedge and ornamental, all parts of the oleander plant are deadly and contain lethal cardiac glycosides known as oleandrin and nervine. If eaten, oleander can cause vomiting, diarrhea, erratic pulse, seizures, coma, and death, and contact with the leaves and sap is known to be a skin irritant to some people. Indeed, the toxins in oleander are so strong that people have become ill after eating honey made by bees that visited the flowers! Fortunately, fatalities from oleander poisoning are rare, as the plant is very bitter and thus quickly deters anyone sampling the vegetation.
- Water Hemlock (Cicuta Maculata)
You should know that this dangerous plant is related to the poison hemlock, which was used to kill Socrates in ancient times. You should know that water hemlock is a large wildflower from the carrot family and it’s similar to Queen Anne’s lace by appearance. This plant looks like parsnips or celery. This plant is really dangerous and if it’s indigested it can cause side effects, even death. Water hemlock contains a deadly cicutoxin which is mostly concentrated in its roots and its consequences are felt almost immediately after exposure. Symptoms of water hemlock poisoning are: painful convulsion, abdominal cramps, nausea and the most fatal cases result in death. People who’ve survived this type of poisoning often experience amnesia and lasting tremors.
- White Snakeroot (Ageratina Altissima)
First, you should know that this poisonous plant is native to North America. White snakeroot is a plant with flat-topped clusters of small white flowers, containing a toxic alcohol, called tremetol. This herb is responsible for the death of Nancy Hawks, Abraham Lincoln’s mother. The worst thing about white snakeroot is that you don’t have to ingest it directly to be poisoned, Nancy died from drinking the milk of a cow that consumed this plant before that. This means that even the meat and milk from poisoned cattle can have deadly consequences if ingested. The most common symptoms of white snakeroot “milk poisoning” include loss of appetite, nausea, weakness, abdominal discomfort, red tongue, an abnormal acidity of the blood, and eventually death. So, all farmers are warned about the toxicity of this deadly plant and they all try to remove this dangerous plant from their pastures.
- Castor Bean (Ricinus Communis)
This type of plant is usually grown as an ornamental plant due to its attractive looks and it’s native to Africa. You’ve probably heard about castor oil, right? The castor oil is produced from processed seeds, but before processing the beans contain a poison called ricin which is extremely deadly even in very small amounts. You should be very careful because just one or two seeds are enough to kill a child while just eight seeds can easily kill an adult person. Ricin prevents the synthesis of proteins within cells and can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and lead to death.
- Tobacco (Nicotiana Tabacum)
Did you know that tobacco is the most widely grown commercial non-food plant in the world? And, you should know that all parts of the plant, especially its leaves, contain the toxic alkaloids nicotine and anabasine, and can be fatal if eaten. Despite its designation as a cardiac poison, nicotine from tobacco is widely consumed around the world and is both psychoactive and addictive. According to the latest statistics, tobacco use causes more than 5 million deaths per year, making it perhaps the deadliest plant in the world.
- Angel Trumpet
This toxic plant is a native South American plant and contains three powerful toxins: atropine, hyoscyamine, and scopolamine, which has mind-altering properties. Its deadly properties are not so deadly on its own but more when it’s used as a biological weapon by people. In a documentary, called “Colombian Devil’s Breath”, the makers explained how this toxic plant was used by criminal gang members to turn their victims into walking zombies. It has the power to make its victims unaware of what they are doing but still completely conscious. In the documentary, there were a number of horrifying stories about people who were taken advantage of under the effect of this plant. The most shocking story is that one man, who was exposed to scopolamine powder, helped thieves rob his own apartment and he even helped them load the stuff into the truck.
- Spurge Laurel
This dangerous plant is a woody mini shrub commonly found in ornamental gardens and public grounds and it is closely related to the Bay leaf. This plant doesn’t look dangerous, but you should be careful because this plant is one of the deadliest plants and leads to a horrifying death. It contains powerful biocides and can cause painful blisters and skin irritation if you handle it without protection. This plant is deadly if consumed internally – wreaking complete havoc, major internal bleeding and organ failure after consuming just a few of its berries. It causes imminent death in just a few hours.
- Death Camas
In the shire like Oak woodlands of Western North America, edible bulbs known as Camas plants dot the meadows with their bright flowers. First Nations actively cultivated the fields through scheduled burning, producing the potato-like food as a principle source of starch. However, a closely related species exists that looks similar to edible Camas. With a name like Toxicoscordion Venenosum, it is immediately clear that this is one of the most toxic plants in existence. The Death Camas from edible camas can be distinguished by its moderately different coloration, and the distinction is a matter of survival should one be persuaded to try Camas. Ingestion of anything but the smallest amounts results in rapid death caused by organ failure and blood disturbance. We can only imagine how the Death Camas was discovered.