There’s no doubt that plants, particularly indoor plants, are highly beneficial because they clean the air and provide oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. In other words, they freshen up your home making it a better place to live in.
However, some plants are toxic, which means they are a health threat for you and your family. This should be of particular concern to those with small kids and pets.
Read on and find out which plants you should never keep at home.
1. Tobacco (Nicotiana Tabacum)
Tobacco is the most widely-grown commercial non-food plant in the world. All parts of the plant, especially the leaves, contain toxic alkaloids – nicotine and anabasine, which can be deadly when ingested. Tobacco is a known cardiac poison, while nicotine from tobacco is both psychoactive and addictive. Tobacco use causes over 5 million deaths per year, making it perhaps the deadliest plant in the world.
2. Oleander (Nerium Oleander)
This majestic looking plant is loved for its amazing pink flowers. However, all the parts of an oleander plant are deadly as they contain toxins called oleandrin and nerine. If ingested by accident, oleander can cause vomiting, diarrhea, erratic pulse, seizures, coma, and death, and for some people even the merest physical contact with this plant can trigger a rash and skin irritation. This plant is so poisonous that some people have felt sick after eating honey made from pollen extracted from this plant. Luckily, oleander plant has a very bitter and off-putting taste, which is why poisoning is quite rare.
3. Spurge laurel
Spurge laurel is a woody mini shrub commonly found in ornamental gardens and public grounds and is closely related to the Bay leaf. Even though it looks harmless, this plant is one of the deadliest plants and can cause a horrible death. It contains powerful biocides and can cause painful blisters and skin irritation if you handle it without protection. However, if ingested, it creates havoc inside the body, including major internal bleeding and organ failure. And, it takes only a few berries. It causes imminent death in just a few hours.
4. Angel Trumpet
This incredibly looking vine is native to South America. However, it contains 3 powerful toxins – atropine, hyoscyamine and scopolamine, which have psychedelic properties. Its deadly effects are particularly dangerous when it’s used as a biological weapon. There was a documentary made in 2007, called “Colombian Devil’s Breath” which described how this majestic 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 while remaining conscious.
5. Water Hemlock (Cicuta Maculata)
This plant is closely related to the poison hemlock, which was used to kill Socrates, an ancient Greek philosopher. This plant has been called “the most violently toxic plant in North America” and for a reason. It’s a large wildflower from the carrot family and it’s similar to Queen Anne’s lace in appearance. It can often be mistaken for parsnips or celery, and if ingested can have deadly consequences. Water hemlock contains a deadly cictutoxin, which is mostly concentrated in its roots and its consequences are felt almost immediately after ingestion. Symptoms from water hemlock poisoning are painful convulsion, abdominal cramps, nausea and the most fatal cases result in death. Survivors from this type of poisoning often experience amnesia and lasting tremors.
6. Death Camas
The Death Camas is a flowering plant, commonly found throughout the US. On average, it reaches several feet in height. The flowers grow as panicles – a cluster of flowers – that can resemble those of onions (Allium). However, the Death Camas are highly poisonous, and what’s worse, they are easily confused with “Common Camas”, which are of a different family and have been an important food source for northwestern Native Americans throughout history. All parts of the plant including the leaves and bulbs contain zygacine, a steroidal toxin which leads to fast death if ingested. Even when ingested in the smallest amounts, this plant can lead to organ failure and blood disturbance, causing imminent death.
7. White Snakeroot (Ageratina Altissima)
White snakeroot is native to North America and it’s a herb with flat-topped clusters of small white flowers, containing a toxic alcohol, called trematol. This herb was the reason 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 milk from a cow that had previously grazed on this herb. In other words, even the meat and milk from poisoned cattle can have deadly consequences if ingested. The usual symptoms of white snakeroot “milk poisoning” include loss of appetite, nausea, weakness, abdominal discomfort, red tongue, abnormal acidity of the blood, and death. On the plus side, today farmers are aware of the high toxicity of this deadly plant.
8. Deadly Nightshade (Atropa Belladonna)
The legend says that Macbeth’s soldiers poisoned the Danish invaders with wine spiced with the sweet fruit of the Belladonna. Its sweet taste and berry-like fruits account for most cases of poisoning. The nightshade is native to the wooded areas of central and southern Europe and Asia; it has dull green leaves and black cherry-sized berries. The poisons responsible for its toxicity include atropine and scopolamine, which are found in the stems, leaves, fruits and even roots. The poison, if ingested, causes paralysis of the involuntary muscles, including the heart, rapidly resulting in death. It’s so poisonous that it even irritates and inflames the skin when it comes in contact with it.
9. Rosary Pea (Abrus Precatorius)
Rosary peas, otherwise known as jequirity beans contain abrin, an extremely deadly ribosome-inhibiting protein. This plant is native to tropical areas and is often used in jewelry and prayer rosaries. It’s interesting that if the seeds aren’t damaged they aren’t poisonous, but if they are somehow scratched, broken, or chewed, they can be deadly. 3 micrograms of abrin are enough to kill an adult, which is less than the amount of poison in one seed, and it is said that numerous jewelry makers have poisoned themselves and even died after accidentally puncturing their fingers while working with the seeds. Like ricin, abrin prevents protein synthesis within cells and can cause organ failure within 4 days.
10. Castor Bean (Ricinus Communis)
Castor bean is usually grown as an ornamental plant due to its magnificent look. This plant is native to Africa. We’ve all heard about castor oil which is produced from processed seeds, but prior to processing, the beans contain a poison called ricin which is extremely deadly, even in very small amounts. 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 death. The most famous case of ricin poisoning is the assassination of Georgi Markov in 1978, a journalist who spoke out against the Bulgarian government. Most fatalities happens due to accidental ingestion by children and pets.