- The Tree of Death (Hippomane mancinella)
- Castor oil (Ricinus communis)
- The oleander (Nerium oleander)
- Common aconite (Aconitum napellus)
- Cicuta (Conium maculatum)
- America licorice (Abrus precatorius)
- Male Aristolochia (Aristolochia paucinervis)
- Sodium estrammonium (Datura stramonium)
- Beggar's herb (Clematis vitalba)
- Bonetero (Eunomymus europaeus)
- Floripondio (angel trumpet)
- Walnut (Bryonia cretica subsp. Dioica)
- Stinging nettle
- Belladona (Atropa belladonna)
- Pain Bush
- Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum)
Although there are countless benefits of plants and they have been used as a source of food (their fruits and some leaves) and as a remedy for diseases since ancient times but some of that can be harmful. Prior to technological development, humans had to differentiate the utilities of each other, experimenting with themselves and putting their health and lives at risk, because some plants can be lethal to humans if consumed. Vegetation is an enigma and a mystery. The most dangerous and lethal species can be hidden behind a beautiful and delicate flower, while some of its parts can be miraculous, and the key component to survival. Unfortunately, several of these chemical defenses can cause painful skin reactions in humans. Continue reading to learn about some most harmful plants that can burn, blister, or otherwise irritate you!
These plants have had to adapt to a variety of climatic, earthly, and environmental changes over time. Some have developed toxicity as a result of hostile accommodation and the urgent need to defend oneself from the outside world. Some animals, particularly herbivores, have evolved the ability to distinguish between plants that are suitable for ingesting and purifying their bodies and those that are harmful and lethal. It is important to remember that the toxins in these herbs are not equally harmful to all species. Some only affect certain mammals, while others affect both animals and humans. Some plants are poisonous not only at certain stages of their life, so their threat is not permanent.
Although there are numerous plants that fall in the category of most poisonous plants, the following list highlights some of the most well-known and lethal to their victims.
The Tree of Death (Hippomane mancinella)
The chamomile of death, also known as the tree of death, is a tree native to Mesoamerica and the Caribbean Sea islands. It can grow to be up to 20 meters tall. It is extremely toxic, and its fruit has a pleasant smell and an appealing apple-like appearance. It is lethal to humans and possibly all mammals, earning it the moniker “most dangerous tree in the world.” When you rub the tree, it produces a milky sap (containing phorbol) that causes burning, inflames the skin tissues, and causes blisters and epidermal eruptions. If ingested, severe vomiting and diarrhea can result in death. If you are present when this plant is being burned, the smoke can cause temporary blindness as well as serious respiratory problems.
Castor oil (Ricinus communis)
Ricin, also known as the infernal fig tree, is an African bush with a thick, woody stem and leaves that can be red or dark purple (hence the common name). It is usually covered in a white powder called ricin, which is highly toxic. Contact with this substance results in nausea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, internal bleeding, and kidney failure, which leads to death 10 days later. Ricin disrupts human cellular metabolism; by interfering with the chemical process that sustains life, cells die and organs begin to fail gradually until death occurs. A lethal dose for an adult would be five castor beans; for a child, it would be one.
The oleander (Nerium oleander)
The oleander, also known as laurel of flower or trinitaria, is a shrub plant (of Mediterranean origin and thus drought-resistant) with intensely green leaves and highly poisonous leaves, flowers, stems, branches, and seeds. It is also known as “the most poisonous plant in the world.” It is ranked first because of its potent poison, which contains several toxins (including oleandrin) that act on the heart. When this plant is consumed incorrectly, it causes nausea, vomiting, vertigo, bowel movements, excitement and depression, convulsions, arrhythmias, tachycardias, and, ultimately, cardiac arrest.
During the Spanish War of Independence (1808), a platoon of Napoleon’s soldiers paused to roast meat on oleander stakes found around the temporary camp. This resulted in the deaths of eight soldiers and the intoxication of four more.
Common aconite (Aconitum napellus)
This herbaceous plant, also known as matalobos or devil’s helmet, grows in mountainous areas of the planet’s northern hemisphere. It is one of the most harmful plants (considered the most toxic in Europe) because it contains aconitin, one of the most active and toxic alkaloids that, after a slight contact, can slow the heart to death, and 1mg of this plant is enough to kill an adult weighing 80kg. Burns in the mouth, salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, heart problems, coma, and, in some cases, death can occur after touching or ingesting aconite.
Cicuta (Conium maculatum)
It is native to Europe and North Africa and grows in humid and cool environments (river banks, streams, and the edges of roads and fields). This invasive species, which can grow up to 2 meters tall, contains all toxic substances, including cicutin, which inhibits the functioning of the central nervous system, resulting in “cicutism” (cyanosis, midriasis, convulsions, and coma), which begins with vertigo, headaches, lower body temperature, and muscle weakness, eventually leading to paralysis. Only a few grams of its green fruits are required to kill a human being. Socrates, the most famous historical figure who died after being sentenced to drink a glass of hemlock in a trial, died in 399 BC.
America licorice (Abrus precatorius)
This is a climbing liana (from India and Indochina) that can grow to be up to 5 meters long. It has pink or reddish-purple flowers that grow in clusters. The abrina toxin is the toxin that makes this plant one of the most dangerous, as it prevents the synthesis of proteins at an alarming rate. A single abrin molecule has the ability to paralyse up to 1,500 ribosomes per second and is 75 times more dangerous than ricin, the toxic substance. Only three micrograms of this substance are required to kill a person, and the entire plant is toxic. This plant was used as an abortifacient and to eliminate intestinal parasites in ancient times.
Male Aristolochia (Aristolochia paucinervis)
It was believed that its seeds soothed epileptic symptoms, the possessed, and also broke spells that prevented a man from having sex with a specific woman. It is known to grow from February to June in areas close to sea level up to 1500 meters altitude, according to a more stable scientific base. It can be found in a variety of habitats throughout Spain. Its aristolochic acid, which can cause respiratory paralysis at high doses, is what makes it so toxic and irritating.
Sodium estrammonium (Datura stramonium)
This poisonous plant with hallucinogenic properties grows naturally in warm areas around the world; present on riverbanks, stables, dunghills, or garbage dumps, this versatile plant can adapt to all types of soil. Tropical alkaloids are the toxic substances that define it (atropine and scopolamine). They can cause aggressive behavior, coma, and even death in high doses. Their association with voodoo and witchcraft stems from shamans smoking its leaves alongside tobacco to enter a trance. A child can be killed with a small dose of four or five grams of leaves.
Beggar’s herb (Clematis vitalba)
This spice was popularly known as ‘beggar’s herb,’ because when begging, beggars rubbed themselves with the plant to cause irritation and thus draw attention and transmit sorrow. It is found in the Mediterranean region, as well as western and central Europe. This climbing plant is very common in Asturias and parts of León in Spain. The plant’s toxin, protoanemonin, can cause generalized intoxication when absorbed through the cutaneous (topical) route. It causes gastroenteritis with diarrheal effusions, nausea, renal injury, and even death from respiratory paralysis if consumed.
Bonetero (Eunomymus europaeus)
It is a deciduous shrub that grows to be between 2 and 3 meters tall and prefers generally fresh and deep soils. Its sale is prohibited due to its main active principle, evonine, which, in doses greater than 250mg, causes gastrointestinal colic (due to its powerful purging action), bloody diarrhea, general weakness, hallucinations, convulsions, loss of consciousness, and syncope, all of which can lead to death.
It’s one of the most harmful plants that are usually houseplants, as it is attractive and easy to grow. This plant has an unknown problem: it contains calcium oxalate crystals, which are toxic to humans and animals. In humans, philodendron causes dermatitis, swelling of the mouth and digestive tract, but in cats and dogs, it can cause spasms, convulsions, pain, and swelling.
Floripondio (angel trumpet)
Most harmful plants: Since time immemorial, the floripondo has spread throughout Latin America and Europe and has been used as a hallucinogen. It’s a small tree with elongated flowers that range in length from 18 to 23 centimeters. It contains alkaloids from the tropics, such as scopolamine, which is used in Parkinson’s drug formulations. Overdoes of these compounds can cause paralysis, psychosis, hallucinations, and even death.
Walnut (Bryonia cretica subsp. Dioica)
It can be found in forest clearings throughout southwestern Europe and northern Spain (especially from Leon to Asturias). Its sale to the general public is restricted, despite the fact that it is used in some medications such as laxatives and topical anti-inflammatory drugs. However, consuming Bryonia fruits can cause gastrointestinal irritation, including vomiting, coleriform diarrhoea (symptoms similar to cholera), intestinal bleeding, and nephritis (inflammation of the kidneys). High doses of this plant can result in death due to cardio-respiratory collapse.
The stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is native to Eurasia, North America, and northern Africa, and has spread to parts of South America. This herbaceous plant’s leaves and young stems are covered in stinging hairs tipped with formic acid and other irritants. When these needle-like hairs are touched, they inject the stinging acid into the skin, causing a burning, tingling sensation and an itchy rash. Fortunately, the symptoms usually last no more than 24 hours. Surprisingly, the cooked plant is safe to eat and is used as a vegetable in some places.
Belladona (Atropa belladonna)
Belladona is one of the most harmful plants. It is a beautiful shrub native to Europe, North Africa, and West Asia. It is one of the most well-known poisonous plants, dating back to ancient Egypt and continuing through the middle Ages. It was the ancient Egyptians who popularized the use of opium as a powerful narcotic. Atropine and scopolamine are the toxins responsible for its effects. In high enough doses, it can paralyze the nervous system, paralyzing even the nerve endings of involuntary muscles such as the heart or blood vessels (which can lead to coma or death). Low doses can cause hallucinations and delusions. A high dose of 10 to 20 berries is enough to kill a person.
The pain bush (Smodingium argutum), also known as African poison ivy, is native to southern Africa and lives up to its name. The plant is a shrub or small tree that produces a creamy sap rich in chemicals known as heptadecyl catechols. Contact with the sap, which turns black when dried, results in a livid, swollen rash with blisters, though some people are immune. Symptoms usually go away after a few days.
Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum)
Tobacco is the world’s most harmful plants and widely grown commercial non-food plant that falls in the category of most harmful plants. The toxic alkaloids nicotine and anabasine are found in all parts of the plant, particularly the leaves, and can be fatal if consumed. Despite being classified as a cardiac poison, nicotine from tobacco is widely consumed worldwide and is both psychoactive and addictive. Tobacco use kills over 5 million people each year, making it the most lethal plant on the planet.