Top 10 Most Dangerous Plants in the World
The world is covered in vegetation and while most plants are incredibly useful to us, for providing food or medicinal benefits, there are some species that pose a significant threat to us. They aren't just in remote jungles though, some of them probably grow quite close to where you live. Now it's time to begin, as we bring you ten of the most dangerous plants in the world.
10. Water Hemlock
Water Hemlock, also known as muskrat weed, or spotted cowbane, is one of the most poisonous plants in North America. It's identifiable by it's sharped tooth leaves that can grow up to 15 inches long and a plant that's between 3 and 7 feet tall. The white flowers cluster into an umbrella-like shape, and the poisonous liquid that they produce gives off an aroma similar to raw parsnips. The plant thrives in damp areas such as alongside streams, and in the wet seepage areas of meadows. It produces a toxin called, cicutoxin.
A small amount of which can stimulate the central nervous system, cause violent convulsions and potentially death. The onset of symptoms can begin within 15 minutes of ingestion and include vomiting, muscle twitching, excess salivation, pupil dilation, and nausea. In large doses the respiratory system can be affected and death usually occurs as a result of respiratory paralysis. It's dangerous to humans, but also to livestock and can be a real pain for farmers to keep away from their cattle as they graze. There are ways to treat the effects of poisoning which include injecting barbiturates, or tranquilizers and providing support with breathing but it is, of course, a better idea to stay well clear of water hemlock altogether.
9. Manchineel Tree
The endangered Manchineel Tree is native to the sandy soils and mangroves of Southern Florida, the Caribbean, and Central America, and is often described as being the most dangerous tree on Earth. They were known by the early Spanish conquistadors, who gave the fruits of this tree the name "manzanita de la muerte", which means little apple of death. Their small, sweet smelling fruits have the potential to cause many hours of agony, or in some instances, death after just one bite.
It's not just the fruit that is poisonous though, the entire tree is, from the leaves, to the bark, all the way to the sap. Just one drop of the milky liquid on your skin will cause it to burn. The reason for this danger is the tree's production of Hippopamin A and B, as well as several yet unidentified toxins. Don't engage with this species at all, because even chopping, or burning the wood or breathing the air around one, can allow small amounts of these toxins to enter your body and result in painful consequences.
8. Doll's Eyes
Doll's Eyes, also known as "White Baneberry", is a flowering plant that is native across North America; particularly in eastern Canada, the Midwest and Eastern United States. It tends to grow in moist and shady environments, and flowers between May and June each year. They're easy to spot because of their striking appearance growing up to 2 feet tall, the most noticeable thing about them is their white berries with the purple pupils from which they get their name. The berries themselves are supported by vivid pink stems.
It's a good thing that these berries aren't that appetizing though, because they're classified as being poisonous to humans. They contain a cocktail of cardiogenic toxins which, if ingested, can have a sedative affect on human cardiac tissues. Effectively shutting your heart down and leading to cardiac arrest, or in extreme cases, death. The presence of these toxins in the plants means they're also occasionally used in medicine. Tiny quantities of the roots are used to brew tea, that helps relive the pains of childbirth, as well as headaches and coughs. Great care must be taken when preparing this of course, because you only need a minute dosage to benefit from it.
7. Rosary Pea
The rosary pea, which you may know as Crab's Eyes, or the Liquorice Vine, is a climbing vine that's native to India. It's an incredibly invasive species, so it's spread across warm climates, particularly in costal regions and can be easily identified by it's dark leaves and red seeds. It's popular as an ornamental vine in landscape gardens, and the seeds are used in jewellery, but it's also one of the most toxic plants in the world. This is because of the presence of abrin in the seeds. This toxalbumin, is a ribosome-inhibiting protein and is very similar to ricin, although more than twice as powerful.
The toxin contained within one seed is enough to kill a human, and the symptoms can be very painful. Inhaling seed dust can cause a fever and a nasty cough, while ingesting will lead to vomiting, mouth and throat pain, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. This will progress to internal bleeding that will be expelled by coughing, organ failure, the collapse of the blood vessels, and ultimately death. Furthermore there is no known antidote, to the effects of abrin, so the best way to avoid complications is to not come into contact with it's seeds. If it does happen you should try to get it out of your body as much as possible, and then hope for the best.
6. Stinging Brush
The Stinging Brush is native to Australia and can inflict one of the most painful experiences imaginable if you come into contact with it. It's known locally as the "Gympie Gympie" plant and is quite common in the rainforest areas to the north of the country. Apart of the nettle family, they grow up to 10 feet tall and have large heart-shaped leaves along with small fruit. The danger of these plants, comes from their stinging hairs that cover every part of them.
They contain a compound called moroidin, which is a potent neurotoxin. The silica tipped hairs are designed to puncture the skin upon impact and inject the toxin directly into the body. This results in a nasty stinging sensation that will last for days, or even in some cases, for years. Red spots will also develop on the affected site and eventually join together to form a large red area of swelling. If you're stung by these needles, the advice is to carefully remove the hairs to prevent toxins from being released, and, worryingly, the application of dilute hydrochloric acid to neutralize the toxins
5. White Snakeroot
This is a perennial herb that's native to North America. The plants can grow up to 5 feet tall with white flowers and are often found in woods and brush thickets. It's a very adaptive species though, so it can grow virtually anywhere. White Snakeroot is poisonous because it contains a toxic alcohol called tremetol. This isn't directly dangerous to humans in itself, but the risk comes because of how attractive it is to other animals. Cows, for example, will eat the plant if allowed to graze near it, and they can suffer from muscular tremors, weakness and even death. People who drink the milk produced by cows that have eaten the plant can also suffer from milk sickness and suffer from similar symptoms. Milk sickness was actually responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in the early 19th century, when settlers arrived in the American Midwest and were unaware of the dangers that awaited.
4. "Castor Plant"
The Castor Plant is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous plants in the entire world. They're grown for pharmaceutical and industrial uses, and can reach up to 40 feet high. The beans that grow on the plant are about 40 to 60 percent oil, so are valued for their uses in lubrication, and uses in medicine, but they're also the source of a deadly substance, ricin. Small amounts can be ingested simply by eating the beans but it can also be refined from the waste products of the oil extraction process.
The toxin prevents the cells within a body from producing the proteins they need to survive and, in high enough quantities, can cause the cells to die which leads to significant harm, and potentially death. Even if exposure isn't fatal, it can be a harrowing experience. With potential symptoms including respiratory distress, heavy sweating, bloody diarrhea, and seizures; it's dangerous stuff, and even more so considering how frequently the plant is grown, and how easy it would be for someone with bad intentions to get a hold of some.
3. Bleeding Tooth Fungus
This gross looking fungus is the Hydnellumpeckii, more affectionately known as the Bleeding Tooth Fungus. It grows in the forests of Europe and North America and is identifiable from it's pale pink to black coloration, tooth-like spines underneath it's cap, and the thick red fluid that oozes out of it and makes it look like it's bleeding. While this fungus isn't actually poisonous, it does contain atromentin, which has antibacterial and anticoagulant properties. This makes them useful in making remedies for some ailments, but can male you ill if consumed in high doses. This probably isn't the mushroom that's at the top of your list for eating based on looks alone, but it also has a very bitter, peppery flavor, so isn't a very useful addition of cooking.
There are quite a few different species of Nepenthes, otherwise known as the Tropical Pitcher Plant. The thing that's unusual about these plants is that they're the largest species of plant that are able to eat meat, and they have an ingenious way to capture their prey. The Nepenthes Rajah comes from Malaysia and they're both the largest Nepenthes species, and the biggest carnivorous plant, in the world. The bowl of the plant contains water and a digestive fluid, and while their main source of food are the insects that fall in, they're more than capable of digesting small animals, like rats, birds, and frogs.
They also attract shrews, but instead of eating them, they digest their poop, with animals using these plants as a luxurious jungle toilet. Another species is the Nepenthes Attenboroughii, named after the wildlife presenter. It's native to the higher regions of the jungles in the Philippines, and is also big enough to trap and digest small rodents. They're relatively rare but because they tend to grow in inaccessible places, they're safer from poachers than other tropical plants. Luckily for us, no pitcher plants currently exist that are big enough to eat a person, so they don't pose any threat to us. There are, though, models around the world that show how large a pitcher plant would have to be to consume us. The large models also show you what it might be like to be a tiny insect in a world of towering meat eaters, waiting for their next meal.
This plant causes the most human deaths every year - tobacco. There are more than 70 different species of the plant, which originated in South America, and is now grown around the world in hot climates. The plant itself is unremarkable in it's natural form, but it was discovered about 6,000 years ago that if you dry the leaves, they have an effect when their smoked. This is due to the production of nicotine, which is a stimulant.
Tobacco is consumed in various ways, such as smoking, chewing, and sniffing, but each method comes with it's own risks that affect the heart, liver and lungs, and is associated with many different types of cancer. In the 20th Century, the World Health Organization estimates that more than 100 million deaths can be attributed to smoking tobacco. Which is why there have been such large scale attempts to reduce the number of people who do this as a recreational activity. Especially as 46,000 people a year are thought to die in the United States, as a result of secondhand smoke inhalation.
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