You already know Mother Nature is trying to kill you. Look around at the changing weather, country-wide wildfires, and slew of animals that are adept at making you into human pie. We are brittle little creatures on this blue marble, and nature is aware of that, treating us much like the parasite we suppose we are.
Uplifting, right? Well, when you inspect the world a little closer, the prospects of survival don’t get much better. Even the floral, colorful beauty of the plant world has its own hidden serial killer side. So let’s take a look at some citizens of the plant kingdom who want nothing more than to end your existence.
9. Water Hemlock
Let’s start off with a bang, shall we? Throughout the countrysides of North America lies a potent, fairly common plant called the water hemlock. Its lineage comes from the Apiaceae family, which includes such tasty treats as carrots, parsley, and fennel. Rest assured, it might have delectable cousins, but this guy is bad news.
The water hemlock lives in the United States, mainly, spanning the country and even the parks of major cities like New York. It’s pretty, with little white flowers on an umbrella-shaped canopy and purplish stems. But inside it contains the poison cicutoxin, which makes the brain go bonkers. The body starts sweating, the kidneys begin to fail, and it can certainly lead to death. Most of the poison is located in the roots, but just play it safe and don’t touch or eat any of it.
8. Gympie Gympie
The water hemlock may kill you, but at least it does its work quickly. Australia’s Gympie Gympie prefers to take its sweet time. And being a resident of Australia, of course down there the trees sting. Local tales going back centuries document animals and people hurling themselves off of cliffs because of the effects of the Gympie Gympie stinging tree. The British Army looked into making a weapon with the leaves of the tree.
So what does it do to you? Well, for many, after contact with the Gympie Gympie, allergic reactions like sneezing and runny eyes present themselves. Not bad, right? Well, for the next two days after that, it ramps up to a feeling that has been described as being “burnt with hot acid and electrocuted at the same time.” And that pain can last months. One case even felt the pain for two years after initial contact every time he took a shower.
Aconitum napellus is the proper name of a cute little purple flower that sets its roots down in gardens all around Europe. More commonly known as Monkshood, or the more sinister Devil’s Helmet, the plant thankfully doesn’t cause much trauma from simply handling it. Ingesting it, however, activates a poison that is quite deadly.
The main cause of poisoning from Monkshood is when children accidentally eat the flowers or roots, or when the flower is used in herbal medicines. Once the poisonous parts of the flower are in your body, the heart begins to experience severe duress. Nausea and vomiting follow, then facial and muscular numbness. Death is a very real possibility, and as recently as 2014, a gardener in England died after exposure to the plant.
6. Angel’s Trumpets
Another U.S.-based flower that’s fairly common in backyard gardens is the Angel’s Trumpet, a truly-gorgeous horn-shaped flower with wide petals and a lazy, hanging demeanor. And it’s the striking color and snack-like appearance of the seed pods that pose a particular risk to humans.
It’s not just the seeds that contain poison, either. The roots, leaves, flowers … the whole plant it just a time bomb waiting to engulf your loved ones. Special care needs to be taken to place the flowers out of reach of pets and kids, and you can’t even keep these things near a garden, because they will contaminate your crops. People being people, they’ll still insist on purchasing these admittedly-pretty flowers, even though they pose the risk of paralysis, hallucinations, coma, and even death.
Atropa Belladonna. Deadly nightshade. Such lovely, poetic words for a plant that has been a recognized killer for centuries. Deriving from Europe and Asia, but commonly found worldwide today, the belladonna sports little purple flowers, and delicious-looking little sweet dark berries.
But it’s all a pretty exterior, with death awaiting on the inside. Ancient Romans knew this and used belladonna to poison their enemies’ food. Macbeth contains a section where belladonna was used to put an opposing army to sleep so that they could be murdered by the other side. The Nazis used it to make a toxin in WWII. While belladonna can cause serious health problems just by touching the plant, actually ingesting it can cause delirium and respiratory failure. Weirdly enough, the deadly belladonna can be used for some good medical applications. Some of those include treatment for opium poisoning, and for pupil dilation during eye procedures, a callback to Venetian women using it for the same purpose in Renaissance times to enhance their beauty.
4. The Suicide Tree
Cerbera odollam is a tree native to India. There’s nothing particularly remarkable about this hardwood tree. But when a team of scientists did a study on a region of India where the tree is common, they noticed a huge number of deaths in the span of a decade. Around 500, to be more specific. So the other name given to the plant, the “suicide tree,” is very fitting.
Cerberin is the poison that the tree possesses. It’s notable because it’s not the easiest thing to find in the human body after death. Cerberin is a poison that slows the heart, and it’s much like a lethal injection in the way it works. If a person were to ingest just one of the seeds of the suicide tree (where most of the poison is located), death is a very real possibility within hours. And it isn’t hard to eat one, because they’re located inside a fruit that comes from the tree. It’s thought that more people use this plant to commit suicide than any other on the planet.
3. Doll’s Eyes
It’s called white baneberry, and it’s most common in Europe and America. They look like wildflowers, but the little white berries that grow off of the red stems give the peculiar little plant its other name: doll’s eyes. Creepy, right?
If it’s not enough to envision the eyeballs of Annabelle peering back at you from the stems of the white baneberry, the toxicity of the doll’s eyes will finish the job. The berries don’t look unlike some yogurt-covered raisins or any other similar child’s snack, but if your little one got a hold of and ate some of them, they could experience symptoms ranging from simple throat pain to hallucinations, cardiac arrest, or even death.
2. Giant Hogweed Plant
There’s an invasive plant species becoming more common in the United States in the last few years. One that’s causing a small panic, due to its massive size (it can grow over 14 feet tall) and its ability to cause havoc upon the human body. It’s called the giant hogweed, and it was first brought to America from Asia in 1917 for decorative use.
Then it got greedy, and began taking over landscapes across the country. You could see it along roadsides in the country, or in forests near water. It has an umbrella shaped canopy at the top of its tall stem, with a fan array of little white flowers. The sap that coats the plant can cause burning or even blindness. It can permanently scar you as well, yet thankfully its size is its greatest weakness. It’s fairly hard to accidentally walk into one of these big dumb plants to feel the effects of its toxins, and with widepread efforts from states to eradicate it, you’d have to try hard to get hurt by the giant hogweed. Still, beware.
1. Castor Oil Plant
If you remember the Breaking Bad series, you know that Walter White concocted a deadly vial of poison called ricin, which then fell into the wrong hands and made a child very sick. The plant that Walter got that poison from is the castor oil plant, which is frighteningly-common and contains the world’s deadliest toxin.
The ricin contained in the seeds of the plant is so deadly that 4 to 8 of those seeds can kill you. Three to five days of agony follow, before your body just gives out from the number of effects the poison offers. Dehydration leads to decreased blood pressure, and when combined with diarrhea and vomiting, it’s a fatal brew. Ricin was used in a real world story in 1978, when a Bulgarian journalist was assassinated with a ricin-tipped umbrella end.