Foraging is an important survival skill. On the off chance that you run out of food, foraging for wild edibles is your best bet of staying alive.
However, not all plants out there are edible; some of them are downright poisonous. If you're not careful, you can pick some nasty plants, berries or flowers that could do significant harm to you and your family.
Here are 10 poisonous plants that you have to avoid:
Foxglove often grows in the wild but this flowering plant is also cultivated in gardens for its beautiful, trumpet-like blooms. But don’t be fooled, this garden plant contains substances called cardiac glycosides that can slow the heart and eventually cause arrest and even death.
Cardiac glycosides are used by pharmaceutical companies to make medicine for people with heart problems. If you somehow ingest significant amounts of foxglove, you might as well have taken an unsupervised dose of heart medicine. All parts of the plant are poisonous, so make sure to keep small children and pets away from this plant.
Well, the name says it all: deadly nightshade is, in fact, deadly. Its leaves and berries are toxic and can cause delirium and hallucinations. Curiously, this plant was used by ancient Italian women to dilate their pupils, making them more attractive. This is how the plant earned its scientific name belladona, which means beautiful lady in Italian. Signs and symptoms of nightshade poisoning include the tell-tale dilation of pupils, loss of coordination, dry mouth and throat and delirium.
Rhubarb is a plant that’s eaten and used in numerous dishes across the country. But did you know that it could potentially shut your kidneys down? The stalks are pretty harmless but rhubarb leaves contain a poisonous substance called oxalic acid, which damages your kidney. It only takes an average of 25 grams of oxalic acid to poison a person. The leaves aren’t 100% composed of oxalic acid, so it will take a lot of rhubarb leaves for you to get poisoned. Nonetheless, there have been accounts of World War I soldiers dying from ingesting rhubarb leaves, so best be careful and avoid eating rhubarb leaves at all cost.
Castor beans are very lethal. These tiny beans are a source of ricin, a highly toxic protein. Unlike other dangerous plants that affect your skin or a single organ, ricin affects your body at a cellular level by stopping cells from producing their own protein. The result is a devastating multiorgan failure. Ricin hits the gastrointestinal system first, causing severe diarrhea and vomiting. It then shuts your liver, kidneys and other vital organs down. This can occur anytime between 2-36 hours after ingestion. The scary part is that there is no antidote to ricin toxicity and it only takes 4-8 seeds for a person to die from poisoning.
This plant is commonly used as a home decor, but like rhubarb, its leaves also contain significant amounts of oxalic acid. It can’t kill you unless you ingest really large amounts, but it can still cause unpleasant symptoms like numbing, excessive drooling and a burning sensation.
Poison ivy rashes are common among people who spend a lot of time outdoors. A substance called urushiol from the sap causes contact dermatitis. This leads to itching, the formation of blisters, oozing fluid and, in extreme cases, anaphylactic shock. If you somehow ingest poison ivy, it can damage your oral mucosa and your gastrointestinal tract. In treating poison ivy, it’s important not to use hot water as it can dilate the pores and let more oils from the plant enter your system.
The english yew tree can grow really large and has a very long lifespan. It is usually found in English churchyards and is a traditional symbol of both eternal life and death. This evergreen plant is found widely in Great Britain and is characterized by needlelike leaves and bright red berries. Every part of the tree, except the berry itself, is poisonous due to alkaloids. The seeds of the berry are poisonous as well.
The toxic chemical in the English yew is called taxine. Symptoms of taxine poisoning may not be present at all; but when it does manifest, it causes rapid heart rate, convulsions, difficulty breathing and eventually, arrest. The plant also releases pollen that can trigger allergic reactions and asthma. The plant’s toxicity only increases when dried.
This huge, flowering plant is also known as giant cow parsnip. It commonly wrecks havoc in the English countryside but is present in some US states as well. Giant hogweed contains a substance called furocoumarin which causes phytophotodermatitis. Phytodermatitis is the significant decrease in the skin’s ability to fend off UV radiation, causing redness and blisters. In extreme cases, scars can even form and last for years. To prevent this, promptly wash exposed areas with soap and water and avoid any contact with the plant.
This plant with beautiful, distinct flowers is also known as wolfsbane and devil’s helmet. Monkshood contains a substance called aconitine, which alters the sodium in your cells, causing your cardiovascular system to shut down. It’s a very potent poison; only 20-40 ml of monkshood tincture can prove to be fatal to the average human being. The signs and symptoms include nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, slow heart rate then cardiac arrest. This can occur within one hour of ingestion. If you act fast, you can administer activated charcoal to counteract the poison’s effect.
The bright red and black seeds of this plant are often used as beads, thus earning the name rosary pea. It contains a substance called abrin, which is closely related to the highly toxic ricin. Like ricin, it disrupts protein synthesis in cells and causes nausea, vomiting, organ failure and death. Unlike its more lethal cousin though, abrin is absorbed slower by the body because of the rosary pea’s tough shell.
Mother nature may give us all we need, but she also throws some poisonous ones in the mix. It's up to you to know the difference.
Some plants in this list can kill a person within an hour, while some need enormous amounts to cause permanent damage. Study and identify these poisonous plants to keep yourself safe. Remember, only eat foraged plants if you're 100% sure that they are edible. When you're in doubt, don't eat it.
We're pretty sure that this list doesn't cover all of the poisonous plants on the planet. What's the most toxic plant you've encountered so far? Let us know in the comments below!