Five Beautiful and Deadly Poisonous Flowers

Five Beautiful and Deadly Poisonous Flowers

We've curated our top five list of poisonous flowers. Read on to learn about these beautiful and deadly specimens and enjoy their stunning illustrations. 

We've curated our top five list of poisonous flowers. Read on to learn about these beautiful and deadly specimens and enjoy their stunning illustrations. 

Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna)

Deadly Nightshade, also known as Belladonna is incredibly dangerous. All aspects of the plant - roots, stem, flowers, seeds, leaves, and berries, are poisonous if eaten. Renaissance-era women used the juice of Belladonna berries in eyedrops to encourage their pupils to dilate and look more alluring, which inspired botanist Carl Linnaeus to name the plant Belladonna meaning "beautiful woman" in Italian. Symptoms of Belladonna poisoning include dilated pupils, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, accelerated heart rate, loss of balance, staggering, headache, rash, flushing, severely dry mouth and throat, slurred speech, inability to empty the bladder, constipation, confusion, hallucinations, delirium, and convulsions.
In 2009, an adult woman ate just six belladonna berries thinking they were blueberries and suffered an extremely severe reaction.
 Atropa Belladonna illustration


Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

Foxgloves are magnificent flowers, growing between 1.5 and 2.5 metres tall. Their large purple, pink or white bell-like flowers bloom in summer. They are native to Western Europe and have been introduced to North America. Gardeners should wear gloves or wash their hands after tending to Foxgloves as their flowers, leaves, stems, and seeds are toxic if ingested (and can also irritate sensitive skin). However, it also has medical uses. Digitalis is a drug derived from the dried leaves of the foxglove and it is used to treat heart conditions. Major symptoms of an overdose of digitalis include nausea and vomiting, hyperkalemia, heart arrhythmia or accelerated heartbeats.

 Foxglove with purple flowers


Hemlock (Conium maculatum)

Conium maculatum aka hemlock is a highly toxic plant originally native to Europe and North Africa but was introduced to Australasia, the Americas and West Asia. It's a hardy species that can reach 1.5 to 3 metres tall and live in several environments. It can be mistaken for other plants, including Queen Anne's Lace, Cow Parsley, wild carrot, parsley, etc. Hemlock has purple-spotted stems and a very distinctive and unpleasant smell when crushed. All parts of the hemlock plant are highly toxic to humans and livestock. The poisonous alkaloids in hemlock damage the respiratory muscles and kidneys. Consuming six to eight leaves can be fatal in adult humans, and hemlock poisoning can also occur by inhaling the smoke from a burning plant, irritation from skin contact or the poison entering the bloodstream through a cut on the skin. It was a means of execution in Ancient Greece, and Greek philosopher Socrates consumed a hemlock potion after being condemned to death. 

 Hemlock illustration


Oleander (Nerium oleander)

Oleander is a beautiful and incredibly deadly flowering shrub. It is so toxic that experts advise handling the plant with gloves due to the sap and foliage irritating the skin and eyes, bagging waste instead of composting it and never burning the wood, as inhaling the fumes is dangerous. Oleander thrives in warm, subtropical areas, and its pretty flowers (ranging from white to pink to deep red) and evergreen foliage lend themselves to decorative hedging and screens. Oleander poisoning has gastrointestinal (nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain) and cardiac effects (heart arrhythmia, missed and accelerated heartbeats and premature ventricular contractions). It can also cause yellow vision (xanthopsia) and burning pain in the eyes and gastrointestinal tract. The toxin can also affect the central nervous system and cause drowsiness, tremors, or shaking muscles, seizures, collapse, and coma resulting in death.

Aconitemonkshoodwolf's-bane (Aconitum)

Aconite flowers are typically a deep purple-blue, but can also be white, yellow, or pink, which looks beautiful against the dark green foliage. Aconite roots and tubers contain Aconitine, a strong neurotoxin and cardiotoxin. Poisoning symptoms begin with gastrointestinal upset and pains, followed by numbness and burning in the mouth and stomach, and in severe cases, to the limbs. The poison also affects the heart and is the leading cause of death. In 1524 Pope Clement VII intentionally poisoned prisoners with aconite laced marzipan to test the effects of an antidote. The prisoner who received the antidote survived, and the untreated person died. More recently, in April 2021 president of Kyrgyzstan, Sadyr Japarov, advertised aconite root as a treatment for COVID-19. At least four people required hospital treatment from aconite poisoning.


 Interested in Learning More?

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