Hanbidge on Gardening: Strange Poisonous Plants

Hanbidge on Gardening: Strange Poisonous Plants

Reveal the deadly side of nature.

Traveling to different places in the world is not only exciting but also very educational. As a horticulturist, I’m fascinated by trees, shrubs, perennials and insects that can be enjoyed when I’m away from home. However, along with the positives, there are many things that are not so positive and can be very deadly.

Plants cannot run or hide when pursued by predators, so many plants have evolved to be highly toxic. This development makes plant parts taste bad, and in extreme cases has the ability to kill whatever eats them.

One of the most dangerous trees in the world grows in the Caribbean region of the world. manchianel tree (Hippoman Mancinella) is part of the Euphorbia family. As it grows, you will often see this tree painted with red bands around its trunk in an attempt to keep people safe. In Spanish it is also called “little apple of death” or manzanilla de la muerte. It grows up to 50 feet tall and has reddish-gray bark, small greenish-yellow flowers, and glossy green leaves. The fruit closely resembles an apple, which is greenish-yellow in color when ripe. All parts of the tree contain powerful toxins containing phorbol and other skin irritants that cause severe allergic dermatitis. Standing under this tree in the rain will cause skin blisters from even a small drop of sap. When eaten, the fruit is said to be initially sweet with a strange peppery sensation that quickly develops into a burning, tearing sensation in the throat that continues to worsen. Curiously, although this tree is poisonous to many birds and animals, black-spine iguanas have been known to eat the fruit and even live among the tree limbs.

Abrus precatorius Known as Jequirity or Crab Eye is another sleeper of toxicity. This is a perennial climber that you will see wrapped around trees, shrubs and even hedges in tropical areas. It is a member of the legume family, and the seeds of this plant are used as beads and in percussion instruments and are highly toxic. A single seed that is chewed and swallowed can be fatal due to the presence of abrin which stops protein synthesis in the cells. The seeds are very attractive and are often a bright red seed with a black end. They resemble beetles and are often used as the eyes of carved creatures. In the West Indies, they are tied into bracelets and worn around the wrist or ankle to ward off evil spirits.

castor bean (Common sign) It is commonly grown as an attractive annual plant here in Canada. It is native to Africa and the seeds are processed as a source of castor oil. However, the plant also contains the toxic substance ricin, which is also very deadly. It will also stop protein synthesis within cells when ingested and can be fatal. All parts of the plant are poisonous, and the seeds contain the largest amount of poison.

oleander (Nerium Oleander is another beautiful houseplant for us here in the cold prairies. It can be easily grown as a small indoor tree with eye-catching flowers. All parts of the oleander plant are also poisonous, and some may find the tree’s sap also irritating when in contact with the skin. It contains oleandrin and nerin, which are fatal cardiac glycosides.

Hanbidge is a master orchid gardener. Follow us at www.orchidhort.com; Via email at info@orchidhort.com; On Facebook @orchidhort and Instagram at #orchidhort. Follow GROW’s live broadcast on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/orchidhort or visit GROW’s YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzkiUpkvyv2e2HCQlFl0JyQ?

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