Plants are an important part of nature. Without plants there could be no life on Earth. Every plant has its purpose, but not every plant is harmless. There are some dangerous plants everyone should be aware of. Recognizing them can keep you, your family, and your animals save from harm.
Nature provided us with a variety of flora and they all serve purposes that the environment depends on. Aside from preventing soil erosion and playing a role in the nitrogen cycle, plants are also part of the water cycle. Furthermore they produce the oxygen we all need to breath, and they happen to be the main food source on this planet.
What’s more, many plants produce the ingredients we need for the cures of diseases and ailments. And while we admire plants for their beauty or lovely scents during their flowering season, some can can deliver quite a painful punch if we dare to touch or eat them.
Why do dangerous plants even exist in Nature?
It’s not like dangerous plants exist to hurt anyone. That’s not their purpose on this Earth. Plants we consider dangerous are useful in many ways, but they are also capable to create poisons to defend themselves from being eaten.
The poisons can be mild and just offend your tongue in a bitter way. They might give you an itchy, blistery, or painful rash wherever they come in contact with your skin. Some dangerous plants can produce chemicals that can make anyone seriously sick. While the most potent ones can be fatal upon consumption.
So, while dangerous plants can make us sick or even kill us, modern medicine owes a great deal of its success to these plants. Some of the poisons serve for medicinal purposes. This is why we also need to protect dangerous plants.
Dangerous plants around you
There are too many dangerous plants around the world to list them all here. But hopefully this guide will help you to recognize the most common ones you’ll come across on hikes, around your camp site, or in your garden.
Lilies are the most common flowers grown in gardens, and they are also used to make many bouquets beautiful. It is no surprise, given the wide variety of Lilies to choose from.
Certain lilies are also highly beneficial in medicine, but only if you know how to use them. Some Lily varieties are even used for cooking. So it seems Lilies are beneficial all around. But don’t let it fool you. You really have to know which Lily can be used for what purpose, and how to properly prepare it.
True Lilies and those that are commonly referred to as Lilies can be very harmful and even fatal when eaten. Keep them away from small children and pets. All Lilies are highly toxic to cats. Even the smallest amount can kill them.
Castor Oil Plant
We all have heard of Caster oil. After all it has many benefits and is grown commercially for industrial and pharmaceutical purposes.
The seeds, from which the oil is extracted, contain ricin. It is one of the most toxic substances known. The ricin is safely removed from the seeds during the manufacturing process.
Although the plant is native to tropical Africa and Eurasia, it has become naturalized in warm areas throughout the world. The plant grows fast and spreads like weed. If you plan to keep a castor Oil plant in your garden, you might want to get rid of its seeds before they mature. This way you don’t have to worry about a small child or a pet accidentally chewing on them.
Hydrangea bushes are beautiful and stunning additions to gardens and landscapes. Many even have leaves just as beautiful as the flowers.
Like most dangerous plants, the hydrangea is used for medicinal purposes. With the correct processing techniques, the root and rhizome (underground stem) is used for urinary tract problems and hay fever.
The plants are toxic to pets, horses and humans. They contain cyanogenic glycosides, which when consumed can lead to breathing difficulties, seizures and coma. If the toxins are consumed in large amounts, heart or respiratory failure can occur.
As with all toxins, the smaller the person or pet is, the higher the severity. Often, the plant is dried and used in art projects. Be aware that even when dried, the toxin is still present in the plant.
According to the USDA, this plant is one of the most dangerous plants that grows in North America. Every single part of it is violently toxic.
The toxin cicutoxin acts direct on the central nervous system. Just a small amount of it is poisonous. Once the threshold dose is reached it causes grand mal seizures and death. The poison is fast-action and can render a person or livestock dead within 15 minutes.
What makes it even more dangerous is that Water Hemlock is often confused with edible plants such as wild parsnip, artichokes, celery, sweet potatoes, sweet anise, and other herbs or medicinal plants. Breaking the stalk releases a highly poisonous brown or straw-colored liquid. Thus caution should be taken when handling the plant.
Surprisingly, despite its high toxicity, Water Hemlock is used as a medicine for migraine headaches, painful menstruation, and intestinal parasites.
These beautiful shrubs or open trees can grow to heights of 30 feet and more. The leaves are often evergreen, and the flowers make nice showy garden and house plants.
Most species of Rhododendron are not only used in medicine, but are also edible or make fine wines. Rhododendron arboreum flower is considered edible and enjoyed for its sour taste in Nepal. Essential oil from the Rhododendron anthopogon species has shown to have antimicrobial effects. Others have anti-inflammatory activities.
Some species are poisonous. All parts of Rhododendron ponticum and Rhododendron luteum, including the nectar, contain grayanotoxins. Although eating leaves, flowers, or nectar or drinking tea made from any part of it produces toxicity, most poisonings result from consuming mad honey. It is produced by bees that had been feasting on the nectar.
If you are planning to grow Rhododendron make sure to check what species to plant and stay away from any of the dangerous plants.
Gardeners love to brighten up their flower beds with daffodils. They are easy to grow spring flowering buds and reliable return every late winter or early spring. They may look innocent, but the golden beauty is loaded with two toxic substances,
The Daffodil bulbs are often mistaken for onions, but they are far from it. The bulbs contain lycorine and it will make you sick when you eat the bulbs. Good thing is, the toxic levels are low. Eating one bite can give you an upset stomach, but eating a handful of bulbs will cause more severe problems.
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The stems, leaves and flowers contain lycorine and calcium oxalate crystals. You will know they are a bad idea to eat before you get a chance to put them into your mouth. Just touching them causes an immediate burning sensation on your skin. If you do manage to put any parts of it into your mouth, it’ll burn your mouth too. Deer know to stay away from them and most horses do too. But cats and dogs don’t seem to have the instincts for it. So, if you love Daffodils, keep them away from pets and small children.
Despite the safety concerns, people like to use the leaves and flowers externally as poultices to treat burns and sore joints. Pharmaceuticals manufacture the drug Galantamine to treat early onset of Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia. Galantamine is not synthetic compound but rather an extract of Daffodils.
Poison ivy, oak, and sumac
Then, of course, there are the three trouble makers. When you’re out hiking you might find yourself surrounded by any of these three invasive plants. It saves you a lot of discomfort if you can recognize them and know how to protect your skin from making contact with the poison.
The plants contain urushiol, which is an oily substances that causes blistery, itchy skin rashes through contact. It is not enough to wear protective clothing when brushing up against these plants. The oil sticks to the clothing which can transfer to your skin when you touch the clothes. Also, if you get it on your hands, avoid touching any other body parts until you had a chance to remove the oil from your hands.
Although your pets fur protects their skin from rashes, the oil will stick to their hair. Make sure to wash them with soap and water to remove the oil. Don’t forget to wear gloves.
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