Every time I see somebody get a paper cut, I think of David & Goliath. Remember how the tiny little David took on the monster that was Goliath, paper cuts are no different. They are a story of how a puny little piece of paper took down the unsuspecting monster – Man. A paper-cut has been likened to the “Wrath of a tree”; a tree’s revenge for the cold-blooded murder spree that man calls lumbering. In my opinion, paper-cuts are more insulting than painful. Whoever expected a paper to cause such maim! But this s exactly why we should be afraid, be very afraid.
Not only has Momma Nature enabled plants to supply us with the life-sustaining oxygen but she has also cleverly equipped with their personal brand of ammunition and issued them a License to Kill.
10. Angel Trumpet
Scientific name: Brugmansia or Datura
One can almost hear this plant tell the wicked tale of a beautiful woman trapping a rich and unsuspecting man in her evil clutches of love and then poisoning him while she rides off into the sunset, now a rich heiress!
This gorgeous looking plant is a native to regions of South America. It comes loaded with toxins like atropine, hyoscyamine, and scopolamine. Hyoscyamine & Scopolamine are both strong hallucinogens. Scopolamine is a dangerous drug which once extracted from the plant can be absorbed through the skin and mucous membranes. In essence, if you ever find yourself in a zombie-ridden post-apocalyptic world, you know which plant to blame for it!
9. Mala Mujer aka Bull nettle, Tread-softly and Finger Rot
Scientific name: Cnidoscolus angustidens
The wicked witch that poisoned Snow-White’s apple! Mala Mujer translates into “Bad Woman”.
Mala Mujer is a perennial herb; covered with stinging thorns and is native to southeastern North America. It is often famously and infamously used as Nature’s barbed wire! The real culprit, however, is the caustic, milky sap that leaks from the plant. It has been known to cause painful skin irritations and discoloration. Of all the milky white sap exuding plants, this is one plant you need to beware of, not only for the damage it can cause to your skin but also to you eyes. If anybody is unfortunate enough to get this deadly sap into their eye, then they are in for some long-term eye damage.
8 Castor Bean Plant
Scientific name: Ricinus communis
This plant tells the tale of a high profile murder, several suspects, several motives, a costly investigation widely published in newspapers and even more eagerly read; but when the investigation concludes, who do you think is found guilty? The Humble Servant!
Castor oil is widely known and used as an over the counter laxative but few people know that it houses deadly poison ricin. Ricin is so fatal that “A dose the size of a few grains of table salt can kill an adult human”. It inhibits formation of amino acids into protein. Protein-synthesis by ribosomes is the most basic level of cell metabolism, essential to all living cells and thus to life itself. Basically, we can’ live without it!
Fortunately, the process to extract ricin from castor bean plants is a complex process and ingestion of castor plant seeds isn’t considered fatal.
7. White snakeroot aka White Sanicle or Tall Boneset
Scientific name: Ageratina altissima
This plant has been known to have been embroiled in a high profile murder case! Guilty as charged! Abraham Lincoln’s mother Nancy Hanks, on consuming milk from a cow that feasted on white snakeroot, contracted the deadly milk sickness and eventually died from it.
White Snakeroot is a poisonous perennial plant native to North America; it contains tremetol, an unsaturated alcohol that causes Milk Sickness, aka Tremetol Vomiting characterized by trembling, vomiting, and severe intestinal pain. In animals it causes muscle tremors called Trembles that leads to death. Hardly any accounts of Tremetol poisoning are witnessed today but that doesn’t change the fact that it claimed several lives in the mid 19th century in the United States.
6. Rosary Pea aka Jequirity or Crab’s Eye
Scientific name: Abrus precatorius
The Rosary pea is native to Indonesia, where its vibrant black, red, and white beads are often used in the region’s percussion instruments. These plants are widely found in the Western Ghats as well! Such harmless looking beads one might say! But they pack a punch! If Ricin were Michael Corleone (refer The Godfather) then Abrin is Don Corleone!
Seeds of this plant are highly poisonous on account of their abrin content. Abrin, which is chemically similar to the ricin found in castor seeds, sabotages the body’s functions at the cellular level by inactivating ribosomes (protein building machines). The abrin content of just one seed is said to be fatal to humans.
Scientific name: Nerium oleander
I would liken murder by this plant to lynching by the mob for the simple reason that Oleander is an extremely common evergreen shrub! It can be found growing anywhere and everywhere! It bears beautiful bulbous flowers in a variety of candy-colours! It contributes vastly to Nature’s aesthetics!
Beware! Don’t you fall into the trap! The leaves, flowers and fruit of this plant contain cardiac glycosides, which have therapeutic applications but are likely to send someone into cardiac arrest should he eat part of the plant. The plant is literally “Heart-stoppingly beautiful”!
4. The Suicide Tree
Scientific name: Cerbera odollam
Partners in crime! This plant belongs to the same family as Oleander, and is a native to India and other parts of Southern Asia. The seeds of the Suicide Tree contain a toxin called cerberin, a potent compound capable of disrupting calcium ion channels in the heart muscle, which can lead to an irregular heart beat that is often fatal if the toxin is ingested in high enough quantities.
This plant is also infamously called The Perfect Murder Weapon! Its flavour can be easily disguised by spices and is notorious for being overlooked as a cause of death in autopsies. (I hope we aren’t putting any ideas into your head). This plant is easily a High Profile Murderer as, after a study by a team of French forensic toxicologists, they concluded that Cerbera odollam is used by more people to commit suicide and murder than any other plant!
3. Monkshood aka Wolfs bane and Devil’s Helmet
Scientific name: Aconitum napellus
This plant literally preaches to prospective murderers that Murder is Easy!
Monkshood is an herbaceous perennial plant that is native to the mountainous parts of the northern hemisphere. You might have heard of it as “the queen of poisons”; and her reputation precedes her!
Monkshood is a deadly weapon full of the poisonous alkaloid aconite, which tends to cause asphyxiation. The main causes of death are ventricular arrhythmias and paralysis of the heart or of the respiratory center. Apparently, a simple stew of the roots of Monkshood could be lethal and cause death within 2-6 hours! Botanists urge people to handle Monkshood with gloves at all times! Dread the Queen, I say!
2. Western Water Hemlock aka Cowbane or Poison Parsnip
Scientific name: Cicuta douglasii
In some circles Hemlock is almost a synonym for poison! This plant is a ruthless serial killer. A psychopath! It kills because that is its sole purpose!
This is perennial herbaceous plant which grow up to 2.5 meters tall and is a native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, mainly North America and Europe. It grows in wet meadows, along banks of streams and such wet, marshy areas.
The water hemlock contains the toxin cicutoxin, which wreaks havoc on the central nervous system, causing grand mal seizures–which include loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions–and eventually death, if ingested. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has labeled it the most “violently toxic plant that grows in North America”. Need we say more?!
1. Poison Hemlock
Scientific name: Conium
The name says it all! This plant owes all of its popularity to Socrates (philosopher)! It has been used in ancient Greece to poison condemned prisoners, one of whom, most unfortunately, was Socrates!
Poison Hemlock is a perennial herbaceous flowering plant, native to Europe and the Mediterranean region. It is also a highly poisonous plant! It contains the most noted of all chemicals – Coniine. Coniine disrupts the workings of the central nervous system. It causes paralysis of the respiratory muscles which results in death due to lack of oxygen to the heart and brain. For an adult the ingestion of more than 100 mg of coniine i.e. approximately 6 to 8 fresh leaves or a smaller dose of the seeds or root is considered fatal.
Flawless Nomenclature indeed!