We go around for nature walks, safaris and what not- just to appreciate the beauty of the versatile array of flora decorating this earth. We awe and ahh at their beauty, feel grateful when we count the uses, but we don’t know yet about how plants can serve as the ultimate weapon to kill the unwitting victims and here we are, just to show you all how the most beautiful entity can be the lethal reason behind fatalities.
10) Nerium oleander- Sweetly scented killer
This flower is known for her outstanding beauty but do not be fooled as it is lethal and dangerous in ways you thought were not possible seeing how it smells to its prey. Nerium oleander, including the plant’s sap is pretty harmful. It is said that even a single leaf from this flower is fatal for a young human and even animals that consume this plant die within days of eating it. It contains numerous toxic compounds, many of which can be deadly. Consumption of this plant will affect the heart and central nervous system. Some toxic compounds are oleandrin and oleandrigenin, known as cardiac glycosides, which are known to have lower tendency of being a cure and can be toxic when ingested. It is still not that poisonous as very few human deaths have been reported yet.
9) White Snakeroot
Also called as Ageratina altissima, White Snakeroot is found in eastern and central North America, and is a poisonous herb of the aster family. Found in woods and thickets, the plant is easy food for cattle and other milk producing mammals. It contains the toxin tremetol that contaminates the meat and milk that when consumed, passes the poison on to humans. If consumed in large enough quantities, it can cause tremetol poisoning or milk sickness, which was very common in the 80s and 90s as humans often ingested the toxin by drinking the milk of cows that had eaten snakeroot. Tremetol can cause muscular tremors, weakness, constipation and even death in both animals and humans and the victim to this was Nancy Hanks Lincoln, the mother of Abraham Lincoln.
Hippomane Mancinelli or Manchineel is one of the most poisonous plants to humans, found in tropical southern North America and northern South America. It is so dangerous that all of its parts are poisonous in some way or the other. Its milky white sap contains phorbol and other skin irritants, producing strong allergic dermatitis, even standing beneath the tree during rain will cause blistering of the skin from mere contact with this liquid. Want to blind people with smoke? Like literally? Just burn the tree as the smoke can permanently blind humans. Its fruit is called “little apple of death” for no vague reason as may produce severe gastroenteritis with bleeding, shock, bacterial super-infection. It might taste sweet at the start, but changes to a peppery feeling, developing to a burning, tearing sensation and tightness of the throat. Dangerous much?
7) Round leaved Sundew
This is a carnivorous plant often found in bogs, marshes, and fens and is called Drosera rotundifolia botanically. It feeds on insects which are attracted to its bright red color and to coax them into coming closer, the plant is covered with glistening drops of mucilage, loaded with a sugary substance, covering its leaves. As soon as the insect comes in contact with it, it gets stuck, causing the Sundew to wrap its vicious leaves around the insect just like an Octopus. It then uses enzymes to dissolve the insects – which become stuck to the glandular tentacles – and extract ammonia (from proteins) and other nutrients from their bodies to gain nitrogen for growth and nutrition. A beautiful killer indeed.
6) Aconite “the poison queen”
Commonly known as aconite, monkshood, wolf’s bane, leopard’s bane, mousebane, women’s bane, devil’s helmet, queen of poisons, or blue rocket, this beautifully colored plant has stunning looks, but it is also one of the most dangerous plants in the world. Its roots supply the Nepalese poison called bikh, bish, or nabee and are known to have multiple complications once ingested- it starts with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea leading to a sensation of burning, tingling, and numbness in the mouth and face, and of burning in the abdomen and if not tamed, tingling and numbness spread to the limbs thus causing hypotension, sinus bradycardia, and ventricular arrhythmias. The symptoms show instantaneously and with large doses death is almost instantaneous. Thankfully this plant in minute doses acts as a remedy for throat ailments, especially in Homeopathy. The saying, “everything in excess is dangerous”, fits well for this one.
Botanically known as Nicotiana Tabacum, the Tobacco is a stout herbaceous plant in the nightshade family that originated in the tropical Americas and is now cultivated worldwide as the primary commercial source of tobacco (as we all didn’t know it). As the small insignificant looking disclaimer after tobacco commercials and in tobacco shops shout out to us- “It is injurious to health”, tobacco plant is indeed is very toxic. All parts of the plant, especially its leaves, contain the toxic alkaloids nicotine and anabasine, which makes it highly poisonous as an irritating effect on the stomach and intestines and also the nervous system entails after this. For a human unaccustomed to tobacco, 4 mg can cause clinical signs, and 60 mg at one time can cause death and you all will be surprised to know that the smallest cigarette contains 20mg. Let’s hope this piece of the article stops people from tobacco abuse.
4) Suicide Tree
Scientifically termed as Cerbera odollam, it is a species native to India and other parts of southern Asia. Its name is befitting as this tree yields a potent poison that has been used for suicide and murder since long before we knew of weapons and guns. It is little surprise that this plant is probably responsible for more deaths than any other plant. In the Indian state of Kerala alone, it is thought to cause around 50 deaths a year. Despite the name, however, this plant’s toxins work equally well for murder as the flavor can be easily hidden in a bowl of spicy food, so no, it is not suicide that can happen using this. This will surely keep you thinking about any dinner with an Indian relative who is sour towards you!
3) Jimson Weed
Botanically known as Datura Stramonium, the Jimson Weed is a plant in the nightshade family. It bears white flowers and prickly seed pods that split open when ripe, usually in fall. A powerful hallucinogen, the plant contain dangerous levels of the tropane alkaloids atropine, hyoscyamine, and scopolamine, which are classified as deliriants. The risk of fatal overdose is high among uninformed users who ingest the plant for its psychoactive effects. It produces delirium (or well, hallucination), hyperthermia, tachycardia, bizarre behavior which lies on the verge of suicidal tendency, and severe mydriasis with resultant painful photophobia that can last several days. Pronounced amnesia is another commonly reported effect. The effects last from 24 to 48 hours, but have been reported in some cases to last as long as two weeks. Indeed, it is named correctly when called as The Devil’s Snare.
2) Poison Hemlock “The Killer”
The poison hemlock was a common ‘assassin’s choice’ in ancient Greece and is so dangerous that it not only kills people, it makes them die a slow, painful death, the reason why it is this high on this list. The plant contains coniine and pyridine-type alkaloids in its roots and seeds. Coniine causes death by blocking the neuromuscular that causes ascending muscular paralysis with eventual paralysis of the respiratory muscles which results in death due to lack of oxygen to the heart and brain, choking the patient slowly. It is believed that this murderous plant was responsible for the death of renowned scholar and philosopher Socrates, so much for having all the knowledge yet dying because of lack of same.
1) Castor Bean
Ricinus communis is a plant native to the tropics but now commonly grown in many other parts of the world too. It is a species of perennial flowering plant in the spurge family. All parts of the plant are highly toxic but most dangerous are the seeds- just 15 to 20 mm in length and 5 to 12 mm in width, which contain an extremely powerful plant toxin called ricin. According to experts, a single milligram of this plant is enough to end an adult’s life. All parts of it are toxic; its beans contain some of the most powerful venom known to man. These are the alkaloid ricinin and toxalbumin ricin, the latter being even more poisonous than cyanide, the instant killer- four seeds will kill a rabbit, five a sheep, six an ox or horse, seven a pig, and eleven a dog. According to the Guinness World Record, the Castor Bean is actually the most poisonous plant in the world, thus making us conclude our list with it, as we can’t defy Guinness can we?
You never must have thought about the repercussions of just chewing a leaf, and there are many plants of this kind that could even kill if they just touch you, burn you if you held them in your hands but are now, thankfully, extinct. Mother Earth does have a menacing way of coming back at us, doesn’t she?