Plants look harmless and beautiful. In fact, hundreds of plants have medicinal chemicals that are used to treat deadly diseases. But many plants also produce poisonous toxins that could kill you. They have developed physical as well as chemical defense mechanisms to protect themselves from humans and animals. They have killed numerous lives throughout history. Abraham Lincoln’s mother died after accidentally getting poisoned with toxins produced by a plant called White Snakeroot. The Water Hemlock killed Socrates. Here we take a look at some of the world’s deadliest plants. Stay as far away from their toxins as possible.
Top 10 deadliest plants in the world
10- Brugmansia aka Angel’s Trumpet
Its beautiful flowers have a sweet smell, but almost every part of this plant is poisonous including the roots, seeds, flowers and leaves. Brugmansia is found mainly in the tropics of South America. It hosts toxic chemicals such as scopolamine, hyoscyamine and atropine. Consuming even a small amount of its seeds or roots could cause you nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, diarrhea, and paralysis. The toxins could kill you if consumed in large amounts.
9- Tobacco aka Nicotiana tabacum
The tobacco plant is grown commercially all over the world. Toxic alkaloids such as nicotine and anabasine are present in all parts of the plant, mainly its leaves. Nicotine has been described as a cardiac poison, but tobacco is consumed around the world. It’s both addictive and psychoactive. According to an estimate, tobacco consumption kills approximately 5 million people every year. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 90% of lung cancer cases are linked to smoking of tobacco products.
8- Jimsonweed aka Datura Stramonium
Jimsonweed has earned nicknames like hell’s bell, devil’s weed, and devil’s trumpet. It is known to have hallucinogenic as well as medicinal properties. Pharmaceutical companies use its chemicals (scopolamine and atropine) as analgesic and in asthma medicines. However, the same chemicals could prove highly toxic if taken in slightly higher dosage. The toxic alkaloids are concentrated in the seeds and leaves. The level of toxicity varies depending on the plant’s age, place, and climatic conditions.
7- Cicuta aka Water Hemlock
Encyclopedia Britannica describes it as “the most violently toxic plant in North America. Water Hemlock looks like Queen Anne’s lace. People often mistake it for edible parsnips or celery. Its white roots contain a deadly toxin called cicutoxin that causes fatal symptoms such as painful convulsions, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. Consuming even the smallest amount of Water Hemlock root could kill you. People who manage to survive the poisoning suffer from lasting conditions such as amnesia and muscle tremors.
6- Aconite aka Aconitum
Just a few years ago, a gardener in the UK mysteriously died due to multiple organ failure. Later, his death was linked to a flowering plant called Aconitum, whose blooms look like monk’s hoods. It looks breathtakingly beautiful but it’s one of the deadliest plants in the world. Every part of it contains a toxin that causes numbness, vomiting, diarrhea, and slows down the heart rate, which results in death. During Second World War, Nazis used aconite to lace their bullets. Ancient Greek shepherds used it to kill wolves and leopards.
5- White Snakeroot aka Ageratina Altissima
The White Snakeroot is a North American herb that contains a dangerously toxic alcohol called tremetol. Ingesting any part of the plant could kill you. Abraham Lincoln’s mother Nancy Hanks Lincoln died after drinking the milk of a cow that had grazed on the White Snakeroot plant. Apparently, the poison remains in the milk and meat of the animals that accidentally consume it, and can find its way to humans through poisoned livestock. The most common symptoms are the loss of appetite, muscle stiffness, constipation, coma, reddened tongue, and weakness.
4- Castor Bean plant
The Castor Bean plant originated in Africa and is now found worldwide. Its seeds are processed to produce castor oil. The coating of castor seeds contains ricin, one of the deadliest toxins in the world. Just a few milligrams of ricin is sufficient to stop protein production in an adult’s body and kill them. It inhibits protein synthesis in the body, leading to the failure of critical organs such as kidneys, liver, and the central nervous system. Ricin is said to be 6000 times more poisonous than cyanide.
3- Rosary Pea aka Abrus Precatorius
The Rosary Pea is one of the deadliest plants in the world. Its black and red seeds contain abrin, a ribosome-inhibiting poison. The seeds are used to make jewelry and rosary prayer beads. Multiple jewelry makers have died while working with the seeds. Its seeds are deadly only if broken, scratched, or chewed. If left intact, they are not poisonous. Only about 3 micrograms of abrin is enough to kill an adult. Notably, each seed has more poison than 3 micrograms.
2- Deadly Nightshade aka Atropa Belladonna
Don’t get fooled by its sweet and juicy fruits. The Deadly Nightshade’s fruits often attract children and adults to the plant. It has toxic chemicals such as scopolamine and atropine in its leaves, fruits, roots, and stems. Surprisingly, the plant is toxic only for humans – birds and other animals are unaffected by its toxins. Physical contact with any part of the plant causes skin irritation. Consuming it results in headaches, blurred vision, muscle paralysis, convulsions, and death.
1- Nerium Oleander
Every single part of Nerium Oleander contains powerful toxins oleandrin and neriine. If ingested, it can cause diarrhea, vomiting, coma, seizures, and death. It’s so poisonous that someone could get killed if they eat honey produced by bees that have digested oleander nectar. However, the plant is commonly grown for decorative purposes. Its chemicals directly attack the heart and central nervous system in humans.
Many of the world’s deadliest plants look beautiful and attractive. There is no way for an unsuspecting person to know whether a plant is poisonous. So, the best thing you can do is to stay away from the plants you are not familiar with.