Plants that Kill

—By Arden Dore

Have you ever heard the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover?” It means that things that look good on the outside aren’t always good on the inside. Oleander, lily-of-the-valley, mistletoe, and azaleas are all beautiful plants. But don’t let their vibrant colors fool you. Eating any one of them can cause you to get very sick—or even die.

Buttercups look good enough to eat. They are delicate and colorful. But if a cow takes just one bite its juices can severely injure its digestive system.

If you live in the South or have ever visited there, you might be familiar with oleander’s pretty white, pink, or red clusters of flowers and green leaves that look like mini pinwheels. Oleander leaves contain the toxins oleandrin and nerioside. If a horse ate about 30 dried or wilted leaves, it would die within hours.

Some plants even release cyanide. Cyanide is a compound of carbon and nitrogen that can be deadly if swallowed. Many berry plants contain cyanide. They include mistletoe, yews, lantana, or moonseed. Never eat berries from plants or trees unless you check with an adult first.

Here are some other toxic plants.

Plant Toxic Part Symptoms if eaten
Amaryllis whole plant intestinal problems
Azalea or Rhododendron leaves, nectar serious illness or death
Chrysanthemum leaves vomiting or severe rash
Clematis whole plant nervous system problems, skin rash, intestinal problems
English Ivy berries, leaves skin irritation and intestinal problems
Foxglove whole plant cardiovascular and intestinal problems
Holly berries intestinal problems
Hydrangea flower buds serious illness or death
Mistletoe leaves, stems, berries skin irritation and intestinal problems
Periwinkle whole plant serious illness or death

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