Here is part 2 of Scariest Plants in the World. For part 1, click here.
01. The Sandbox Tree (Hura crepitans)
This evergreen tree is native to tropical regions of North and South America including the Amazon Rainforest. It is recognized by the many dark, pointed spines and smooth brown bark. These spines have caused it to be called Monkey no-climb. It oozes a sap that is caustic (similar to drain cleaner). Fishermen have been said to use the sap from this tree to poison fish. Indigenous tribes have used arrow poison from its sap. The whole tree is also covered in spikes. Its seed pods are fist-sized fruit that, when ripe, explode with such force that they routinely wound nearby people and livestock, which is unsurprising when you look at the shrapnel they put out.
02. The Devil’s Breath (Flowers of Brugmansia)
This plant’s large, fragrant flowers give them their common name of angel’s trumpets or the devil’s breath. All parts of Brugmansia are poisonous, with the seeds and leaves being especially dangerous.
Brugmansia are rich in Scopolamine (hyoscine), hyoscyamine, and several other tropane alkaloids. Effects of ingestion can include paralysis of smooth muscles, confusion, tachycardia, dry mouth, diarrhea, migraine headaches, visual and auditory hallucinations, mydriasis, rapid onset cycloplegia, and death.
Brugmansia induces a powerful trance with violent and unpleasant effects, sickening aftereffects, and at times temporary insanity. These hallucinations are often characterized by complete loss of awareness that one is hallucinating, disconnection from reality, and amnesia of the episode, such as one example reported in Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience of a young man who amputated his own penis and tongue after drinking only 1 cup of Brugmansia tea.
Scopolamine is used in places like Columbia to turn tourists into unwitting zombies that empty out their bank accounts and have no recollection of the events. The scammers blow it into your face.
03. Deadly Nightshade (Atropa Belladonna)
Belladonna is one of the most toxic plants found in the Eastern Hemisphere. The foliage and berries are extremely toxic. Berries are green, ripening to a shiny-black. The berries pose the greatest danger to children because they look attractive and have a somewhat sweet taste. The consumption of two to five berries by a human adult is probably lethal. Ingestion of a single leaf of the plant can be fatal to an adult.
The symptoms of belladonna poisoning include dilated pupils, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, tachycardia, loss of balance, staggering, headache, rash, flushing, severely dry mouth and throat, slurred speech, urinary retention, constipation, confusion, hallucinations, delirium, and convulsions.
Drops prepared from the belladonna plant were used to dilate women’s pupils, an effect considered to be attractive and seductive.
04. Coyotillo Bush (Karwinskia Humboldtiana)
The coyotillo bush is a little known shrub that grows along the Mexico/Texas border. The small, greenish flowers produce a green fruit that ripens to a dark purple-black color. The small (about 1/2-inch) globular fruit is attractive, has a sweet juicy pulp when ripe. The berries however once ingested cause irreversible paralysis 8 hours after ingestion. Ingestion of the fruit, especially by children, is a common source of poisoning in rural northern Mexico. The poisoning manifests itself as ascending paralysis, starting in the extremities and moving toward the trunk, and in extreme cases victims need mechanical assistance to breathe. Although many victims recover completely, in serious cases they are left quadriplegic.
05. Sago Palm (Cycas Revoluta)
Sago palm is native to southern Japan. The plant is extremely poisonous to animals (including humans) if ingested. Pets are at particular risk, since they seem to find the plant very palatable. Clinical symptoms of ingestion will develop within 12 hours, and may include vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, seizures, and liver failure. The pet may appear bruised, have nose bleeds, blood in the stool, bloody straining, and blood in the joints. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center estimates a fatality rate of 50 to 75% when ingestion of the sago palm is involved. If any quantity of the plant is ingested, a poison control center or doctor should be contacted immediately. Effects of ingestion can include permanent internal damage and death.
All parts of the plant are toxic; however, the seeds contain the highest level of the toxin cycasin.
06. Nerium Oleander
It’s grown all over California (even in schools) for its really pretty flowers which range from deep pink to white. The seeds in the flower are among the most poisonous in the world if ingested, and antidotes are few. Chances are, if you live anywhere on the West Coast or in Southern Asia, (yellow variants are common there) you’ve seen this plant and paid it no attention. It is one of the most poisonous of commonly grown garden plants. Dogs and humans, are relatively sensitive to its toxins.
Ingestion of this plant can affect the gastrointestinal system, the heart, and the central nervous system. The gastrointestinal effects can consist of nausea and vomiting, excess salivation, abdominal pain, diarrhea that may contain blood, and especially in horses, colic. Cardiac reactions consist of irregular heart rate, sometimes characterized by a racing heart at first that then slows to below normal further along in the reaction. Extremities may become pale and cold due to poor or irregular circulation. The effect on the central nervous system may show itself in symptoms such as drowsiness, tremors or shaking of the muscles, seizures, collapse, and even coma that can lead to death.
07. Mandrake (Mandragora Officinarum)
Mandrake is limited to small areas of northern Italy, the coast of former Yugoslavia, and around the Mediterranean. Because mandrakes contain deliriant hallucinogenic tropane alkaloids and the shape of their roots often resembles human figures, they have been associated with a variety of superstitious practices throughout history.
The alkaloids make the plant, in particular the root and leaves, poisonous, via anticholinergic, hallucinogenic, and hypnotic effects. Anticholinergic properties can lead to asphyxiation. Ingesting mandrake root is likely to have other adverse effects such as vomiting and diarrhea. Clinical reports of the effects of consumption include severe symptoms similar to those of atropine poisoning, including blurred vision, dilation of the pupils, dryness of the mouth, difficulty in urinating, dizziness, headache, vomiting, blushing and a rapid heart rate (tachycardia). Hyperactivity and hallucinations also occurred in the majority of patients.
08. Cerbera Odollam (Suicide Tree)
Cerbera odollam a.k.a. the “Suicide Tree,” grows in the swamp and marshy areas of India and southern Asia. Going by the common name “Pong-pong” and growing upwards of 30 feet (~10 meters) tall, it has fruit that looks like a small, green, mango that covers an oval shaped kernel which is just the seed inside the nut or pit of fruiting plants.
The Cerbera kernel contains several glycosides, with the most notable being cerberin. The moniker “Suicide Tree” is well earned. In a ten-year study in the Kerala state of India, Cerbera odollam was responsible for 537 poisonings, half of all plant poisoning cases. The most popular use though is suicide, most likely because it is widely available and its lethality is well known. In these cases the individuals remove the kernel from the fibrous seed husk and mash it with cane sugar, making a sweet, albeit deadly, treat.