The intent of this article is not to scare, but to raise awareness of “what could happen” – exercise caution at all times and research plant characteristics before buying!
- Oleander – Nerium oleander
Its use as a poison is well known. In fact, oleander is reportedly a favorite suicide agent in Sri Lanka, where oleander poisonings exceed 150 per 100,000 each year. That’s a high number. Approximately 10% of these ingestions are fatal.
Despite the danger, oleander seeds and leaves are used to make medicine. Oleander is used for heart conditions, asthma, epilepsy, cancer, painful menstrual periods, leprosy, malaria, ringworm, indigestion, and venereal disease; and to cause abortions.
Oleander is one of the most poisonous commonly grown garden plants and is toxic when eaten by dogs. These plants contain a cardiac glycoside poison which produces symptoms similar to those seen with foxglove poisoning. Oleander poisoning is often caused by the ingestion of dead or dried leaves which apparently are more palatable to animals than the green leaves.
2. Castor Bean – Ricinus communis
Perhaps as a child you might have been given castor oil to ease intestinal problems. This oil is made from Castor Beans, so you might be surprised to learn that castor beans contain one of the most poisonous substances in the world, ricin. Just one castor bean has enough ricin to kill an adult within a few minutes. Throughout history ricin has been used in assassination attempts! Despite this grim quality, castor bean plants are frequently grown for decorative purposes, even in parks and public places. The ASPCA warns that castor bean plants are highly poisonous to dogs, cats and horses. The beans of the plant are particularly dangerous, although the poisonous factor, the ricin protein, exists throughout all of its parts.
3 Daylily – Hemerocallis sp.
Daylily poisoning in cats is caused by the consumption of plants of lily variety, particularly Easter Lily, Stargazer Lily and Tiger Lily.) While not a true Lily (Lilium sp.) the pollen, stem, leaves and petals of many varieties of daylilies are poisonous to felines in even the smallest amounts. Direct consumption of the plant or simply grooming the fur after making contact with the plant can pose a threat for daylily poisoning in cats, causing kidney failure. Dogs do not appear to be affected, and of course Daylily roots and flowers are edible for humans.
Datura is a genus of nine species of poisonous vespertine flowering plants belonging to the family Solanaceae. They are commonly known as daturas, but also known as devil’s trumpets, not to be confused with angel’s trumpets, its closely related genus Brugmansia. (Datura flowers face upwards, Brugmansias hang down.) They are also sometimes called moonflowers, jimsonweed, devil’s weed, hell’s bells, thorn-apple and many more.
.Since this is a night-blooming plant, (flowers usually last into the day) its flowers must be pollinated by nocturnal visitors. Various species of sphinx and hawk moths are common pollinators. During the early morning hours, species of bees and even hummingbirds aid like to visit.
Sacred Datura is still used by some Native American cultures in religious ceremonies. Medicine men, holy men, spiritualists and even self-proclaimed witches have used it since ancient times. Thankfully, accidental ingestion by animals or humans seldom occurs, because all parts of the plant are extremely bitter, but the warning is warranted because accidental ingestion could be fatal.
5 Duranta – Duranta erecta and Duranta repens
Duranta is in the same plant family, Verbenaceae, as lantana. While it is popular nursery plant, it is highly poisonous to pets and children, with many documented deaths. Duranta erecta‘s toxicity has been known since the late nineteenth century when ingestion of its fruit killed a two-year-old boy in Queensland, Australia. In 2006 it was designated a Texas Superstar – I would question “why”, except it has pretty light blue or lavender flowers, and the fruit is a small yellow or orange berry, sometimes with both appearing at the same time. In many places it is now considered invasive, with birds freely redistributing the ingested berries.