6 Plants that Pack a Poisonous Punch

Spring and Summer translate into cookouts, hammocking, and camping with friends. As you get back to the wild this upcoming warm season, know what’s okay to touch and ingest and what’s not. Blackberries for that pie, sure! Some wild mint for your mojito, of course! How about this edible flower as a salad garnish–think again!!! Read on to refresh your memory as to what plant does which and why. Even if you’re clever enough not to ingest these weeds and flowers, keep a watchful eye out for young children and animals this summer.



Morning Glory (Ipomoea violacea or tricolor)


 A beautiful flower indeed, but don’t get entranced by this blooming looker. The seeds of morning glory have a hallucinogen, lysergic acid amide (LSA). Silly youngsters in the past have attempted to eat the seeds in a vain hope to get a LSD-like trip. But usually just end up freaking out. Morning Glory, look but don’t touch–or eat!




Poison Oak (Toxicodendron pubescens)

DSCN5636Often used in landscaping (whose idea was that?) this cousin of Poison Ivy has leaves that resemble an oak tree. The oak leaf mini-me causes an unpleasant rash when it touches the skin. Watch out though, this itchy weed has many faces. Look for a light fuzz under the leaves in addition to pasty yellow flowers in the Spring.




Castor Bean Plant  (Ricinus communis)

220px-Ricinus_communis_(castor_oil_plant)_at_Bandlaguda_002Despite the name, this plant is not a true bean. Indigenous to the southeastern Mediterranean Basin, Eastern Africa, and India this tropical plant has evolved into a widely used ornamental plant in landscaping. While castor oil has a list of medicinal uses, the toxicity of the raw castor seed is extremely dangerous because of the high levels of ricin. Which we all know something about from Breaking Bad.



Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana)

DSC03351Old school southerners are probably among the few who know how to properly prepare the pokeweed to eat. A frequent backyard-week, if you don’t know the secrets or have the patience to cook these weeds just forget about them. If you consume a pokeberry, prepare yourself for convulsions, vomiting, and sometimes worse.




Poison Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix)

Toxicodendron_vernixGoing by the nickname “Burning Brush,” Poison Sumac also looks like a common gardening plant. Sumac however thrives in swampy conditions so it doesn’t usually show up in the backyard garden. Spreading the same painful rash as Poison Oak and Poison Ivy, watch out for this guy when you’re in the bog!




Oleander (Nerium oleander)

file0001854554828This exotic-looking flower blooms in gardens worldwide, and yet ingesting one petal could knock you down. It’s popularity in gardens is so much that its indigenous origin is unknown. Some speculate that even honey from bees pollinating these flowers can make a person sick. It’s troubling compounds include:  oleandrin and oleandrigenin which cause disruptions to heart function.