Something Wicked This Way Grows

Castor Oil Bean 'Carmencita Red' seed pods are luminous red color. Remove and dispose of seed
pods carefully before they split and drop the toxic seeds.

Beautiful Plants with Poisonous Properties

Some of these are lovely, some threaten us with spiky sharp seed capsules, others, I've heard, have bitterness at their core, and all are poisonous. Please don't eat these "daisies"! Never ingest any parts of plants with poisonous properties and be wary of planting these varieties in gardens frequented by children and pets.

Keep your Pets Safe Too

Click here for a list of plants poisonous to Cats and Dogs

Angel's Trumpets - Datura metel, meteloides

This tropical looking plant has beguiling trumpet shaped blooms that unfurl on summer evenings beckoning pollinator moths and all others nearby with its sweet penetrating scent; but beware- under its skin-deep beauty and fragrant air lurks alkaloids of atropine, hyocyamine and scopolamine. Datura species are common in India and were employed by the nefarious road-poisoners described in 1880, and others bent on mischief, who crafted knockout drops from the stacks of dried blossoms and leaves commonly found at the herbalists stall. Closer to home, D. stamonium was munched down in a salad of foraged greens way back in the 1600s-the resulting delirious event was so remarkable that the plant was henceforth known as Jimson Weed after the Jamestown, VA location of the poisoning.


Flowering Tobacco -  Nicotiana, various species including Nicotiana tabacum

Oh, the ingenious ways of plants! Tobacco manufactures nicotine as a defense against insect predation, pretty effective too; insecticides containing nicotine alkaloids such as the sinister Black Leaf 40 were once used indiscriminately to dispatch troubling insects. I hope their end was quick and they didn't suffer the abdominal cramps, agitation, confusion difficulty breathing, and seizures reported in acute human poisonings.

A modern hybrid nicotiana, Tobacco 'Whisper Rose Shades' F1

Foxglove - Digitalis purpurea

Ancient herbals that so alarm us today for their liberal prescription of toxic plants never discovered the true healing properties of digitalis. It was the 18th century before it was successfully used to treat dropsy; previously it was used for skin disorders or even "boiled in wine as an expectorant". Today it is an important heart medication, working to relieve congestive heart failure and heart rhythm irregularities. This innocent-looking flower -the fond subject of folklore, beloved by fairies and a plaything of children, contains spine-chilling amounts of potentially deadly glycosides.

Castor Oil Bean - Ricinus communis 

The castor bean is a plant of many uses, most beneficial, and a troubling few nefarious. The seeds look scarily like engorged ticks and contain the poison ricin, but castor oil- both a machine lubricant and laxative, the leftovers a protein rich animal feed, has been with us a very long time. Swallow the seeds whole and you will be unscathed, chew them and it's another matter altogether. Vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and death may follow, but is rare with modern care. Gophers quiver when beans are placed in their lairs to drive them away I'm told, but this is unfortunately unproven.

Castor Oil Beans

Poppy, Papaver somniferum

The symbol of sleep and death, but also of fertility, opium poppies have been with us since antiquity. The edible seeds give life, the milky sap freedom from pain and distress, but the potent alkaloids of morphine and codeine have ensnared countless into addiction. Beware this beauty!

In gardens of Elizabethan times, opium poppies were found in many different colors and forms, many of great beauty, such as the illustrated red and white varieties. The overlong name given at that time; "John Silver-pin, fair without and foul within" refers to its unpleasant aroma when smelled up close.

Poppy 'Lauren's Grape' is a long time favorite poppy (for us and for bees!)


Popular Posts