Saturday, 3 July 2010

Deadliest Garden Plants

I've always thought flowers and plants do so much to make your rooms more inviting and beautiful. Look at a photograph of a lovely room. Place a finger on the spot where the flowers are and you'll realize how much of the room's charm has disappeared. A room I thought I loved turns out to be just ok, or even blah without flowers. So, as you see, I'm all for flowers and plants inside a home. But... beware.

I came across this interesting and enlightening article at This Old House and you will forgive me for not showing rooms today (or I might post something else later on!) but I was really shocked to learn all this and knew I had to share.

This is the deadly list:

1. Rhododendron (
Rhododendron ponticum)

a rhododendron in full bloom with pink flowers

Swallow any part of this plant, and you're going to look as bad as you feel. While drooling from the mouth and teary-eyed, you'll begin vomiting violently, just as your pulse slows down and low blood pressure sets in. Death can occur shortly after falling into a coma or during a violent seizure.

2. Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majallis)

a lily-of-the-valley starting to bloom
Even the water you place cut lily-of-the-valley flowers in contains deadly traces of convallatoxin, which intensifies the heart's contractions. Just a bite causes headaches, hot flashes, hallucinations, and irritability, not to mention red blotches on cold, clammy skin. The heart will also slow down, potentially leading to coma and death.

3. Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)

a hydrangea with blue flowers in full bloom
Swallowing hydrangea is like popping a cyanide pill. The present poison, hydragin, is a cyanogenic glycoside, meaning it will cause shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting, and a rapid pulse, along with a drop in blood pressure that can cause convulsions and death. (Et tu, Hydrangea! You have stabbed me in the heart!)

4. Poet's Narcissus (Narcissus poeticus)

single narcissus flower
If the scent of a narcissus bouquet in a closed room is strong enough to cause a headache, just imagine what eating an entire bulb might do. Think severe nausea, convulsions, fainting, paralysis and eventual death. Still want to plant them? Watch any open wounds you may have while tending to them—coming into contact with their bulb secretions has produced staggering, numbness, and heart paralysis.

5. Floxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

foxglove flowers
The same thing that makes these lookers toxic to deer won't sit well with your—or the family pet's—digestive tract. Twenty minutes after a little nibbling, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea set in. Depending on the amount ingested, untreated poisoning leads to death by bradycardia (lowered heart rate) or ventricular fibrillation (a rapid, irregular rhythm in the lower heart chambers). Keep in mind, however, that children have died just from sucking on a part of the plant.

6. Larkspur (Delphinium consolida)

larkspur flowers
These enticing blue growers are definitely just for looking—not eating. Immediately after ingestion, nausea, burning in the mouth, vomiting, and slowing of the heartbeat set in. Seek treatment right away, because six hours is all it takes for this flower to become lethal.

7. Oleander (Nerium oleander)

oleander with white flowers in full bloom
Think twice about growing one of these babies in your yard, especially if you have little ones: a single leaf contains enough toxins to be lethal to an infant or small child. Like other poisonous plans, ingesting it first affects the digestive system with vomiting and diarrhea, then poisoning progresses into life-threatening circulatory problems. If your heart's still ticking after that trauma, oleander can also deal a fatal blow to your central nervous system, causing seizures, tremors, and coma that can lead to death.

8. Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)

poinsettia leaves on a white surface
Despite its toxic reputation, poinsettias will never top the list of most poisonous plants, as there's only been two documented cases of them causing human death. But you'll want to teach kids not to touch or consume the plant, nonetheless. And as far as cats and dogs are concerned, keep poinsettia plants out of reach—unless you want to clean up after pet vomit and diarrhea. Take extra precautions if you have elderly, ill, or young pets.

9. Purple Nightshade (Atropa Belladonna)

purple nightshade flowers just starting to bloom
Don't mess with this one—pop a handful of berries in your mouth, and you'll physically be unable to call for help. After you lose your voice, respiratory complications, intense digestive disruption, and violent convulsions begin, the combination of which has proven fatal.

10. Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

mountain laurel with pink and white flowers in full bloom
Mountain laurel parts are full of andromedotoxins, which go to town on your gastrointestinal tract. Watering of the mouth, eyes, and nose are common, as is shortness of breath and slow heartbeat. Kidney failure can occur, as well as convulsions, paralysis, coma, and death.

11. Mistletoe (Phoradendron flavescens)

mistletoe leaves in a tree
Munching on a couple of leaves, berries, or shoots—or drinking mistletoe-flavored tea—will cause abdominal pain and diarrhea. Cases where mistletoe ingestion were fatal involved gastroenteritis (an inflammation of the stomach and small intestine), followed by cardiovascular collapse. The berries are particularly potent when it comes to pets, so mind your cats and dogs around this plant.

12. Water Hemlock/Spotted Parsley (Cicuta maculata)

a single stalk with white water hemlock flowers
This wildflower has been dubbed "the most violently toxic plant that grows in North America" by the USDA. True to its killer reputation, water hemlock can strike you dead within 15 minutes of ingestion. The poison cicutoxin wastes no time in attacking the central nervous system, causing severe seizures and convulsions that turn deadly as a result of asphyxia and cardiovascular collapse.

I can't believe I didn't know all this before! I have hydrangeas and oleander at home and my grandmother had masses of rhododedrons in the garden of her summer home where we used to spend our holidays. I guess pets must have a natural instinct that makes them shy away from these poisonous plants. But children don't. So please keep them away from these plants and when they are old enough teach them about these dangers. So, today you will view your garden with different eyes. I am very sorry, but this was necessary.

Have a splendid poison-free weekend my friends!

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  1. Kifus, oh my goodness!! I knew that a lot of plants are poinonous but I didn't knew that the Rhododendron and Hydrangeas were that dangerous! We have a lot of both in our garden and our dog is always running around them! Now I know that I really have to be carefully and watch our Ralph (our dog, a cavalier King Charles). Thank you for sharing this post!!!
    Have a wonderful weekend my friend!

  2. Yo no te creo nada. Si hay algo que la tele (y Sprayette) me enseñaron, es que las cosas naturales hacen bien.
    Eso es así por definición, dejá de desinformar.

  3. My husband - also an avid gardener does a lecture on these plants and more for his pharmacy tech. students. It is good to spread the word :-)

  4. Thanks for your comments! I was quite taken aback when I learned all this. I think nurseries should provide this information to their clients.

  5. I am finally catching up on some of my favorite blogs...this is a very interesting post. A few of my friends and I were just talking about how dangerous some flowers are a few days ago. Thanks for passing all the information along!


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