You probably know that you should wear gloves when you’re working with poisonous plants, but do you know why? These plants can contain harmful toxins that can seriously injure or even kill you. The likelihood of dying from merely touching some of these plants is very low, but, if you accidentally transfer some of the toxins from these plants to your eyes or mouth, you could end up indirectly ingesting something dangerous. So, if you’re ever working with any poisonous flowers, make sure to always wear gloves to protect yourself. Here are 11 poisonous flowers that you should always handle with gloves.
11 Poisonous Plants
Our list below contains some beautiful plants and flowers that you may not have even known were dangerous. It is our recommendation that you always wear gloves when handling any of these plants to ensure your safety.
1 – Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna)
Purple nightshade, also known as deadly nightshade, is a highly poisonous plant that has been used for centuries in traditional medicine. All parts of the plant are toxic and ingesting even a small amount can cause serious health problems. Purple nightshade poisoning can cause a multitude of health complications such as vomiting, diarrhoea, seizures, and even death. The plant is especially dangerous to children, who may be tempted to eat the attractive, edible-looking berries.
If you suspect that someone has ingested purple nightshade, it is important to seek medical help immediately. Purple nightshade is a beautiful but dangerous plant that should be avoided at all costs.
2 – Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea)
Foxgloves are beautiful plants that are often used in gardens. However, they are also extremely toxic. Foxglove poisoning can occur if the leaves or flowers of the plant are ingested, and it can also occur if the Foxglove plant is handled and then rubbed on mucous membranes such as the eyes or mouth. Foxglove poisoning is known as digitalism and can cause a range of symptoms including nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, hypotension, arrhythmias, and seizures. In severe cases, Foxglove poisoning can be fatal.
If you suspect that someone has ingested Foxglove leaves or flowers, it is important to seek medical help immediately.
3 – Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)
Hydrangea poisoning occurs when someone eats parts of the hydrangea plant. Hydrangeas are common ornamental plants that contain cyanide, a poisonous compound. Hydrangea poisoning typically occurs in children who eat the colourful flowers or leaves of the plant. Symptoms of hydrangea poisoning include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and dizziness. In severe cases, hydrangea poisoning can lead to convulsions, coma, and in the worst circumstances, death. Hydrangeas are also poisonous to pets, so it’s important to keep them out of reach if they are prone to chewing on your plants.
If you suspect that someone has eaten parts of a hydrangea plant, seek medical attention immediately.
4 – Wolfsbane (Aconitum)
Wolfsbane, also known as monkshood, aconite, leopard’s bane, mouse bane, women’s bane, devil’s helmet, queen of poisons, or blue rocket, is a highly toxic plant that has been used for centuries as a poison. Even small amounts of the plant can cause serious health problems, and it has been linked to several deaths. The most common symptom of wolfsbane poisoning is nausea, followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain. The plant can also cause serious neurological problems, including paralysis and seizures.
If you suspect that you or someone you know has come into contact with wolfsbane, it is important to seek medical help immediately. Because of its toxicity, Wolfsbane should be handled with caution, and children and pets should be kept away from areas where the plant is growing.
5 – European Mistletoe (Viscum album)
Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that grows on trees, often in woodlands. It is well-known for its association with Christmas, but mistletoe can be dangerous as well as festive. Mistletoe poisoning is relatively rare, but it can be serious, even fatal. The berries of the plant are the most toxic part, and they can cause vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhoea if ingested. Mistletoe can also cause skin irritation and allergic reactions where you may experience difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat, and hives. In some cases, it can also cause more serious problems such as seizures or heart problems. Despite its dangers, mistletoe is still used as decoration in many homes during the holiday season. If you have mistletoe in your home, make sure to keep it out of reach of children and pets to avoid any accidents.
Note: European mistletoe (Viscum album) should not be confused with the less toxic American mistletoe (Phoradendron serotinum).
6 – Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)
Poinsettia plants are often associated with Christmas, and while they are beautiful, they can also be dangerous. The plant does not have severely dangerous effects when eaten, but if swallowed, it may cause mild irritation, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhoea. In most cases, exposure to any parts of the poinsettia plant in children or pets has very little effect. However, touching it may cause a rash. So, it’s best to wear gloves when handling the plant.
While the dangers of the poinsettia plant are often exaggerated, it’s still important to be aware of them.
7 – Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata)
Water hemlock is a highly toxic plant that is found in wet areas across North America. Water hemlock poisoning typically occurs when people mistake the plant for an edible species such as parsnip or celery. All parts of the water hemlock are poisonous, but the root is the most toxic. Water hemlock contains a number of toxic compounds, including cicutoxin and cicutol. These compounds cause vomiting, convulsions, and respiratory paralysis.
Water hemlock poisoning is often fatal, particularly in young children and death can occur within 15 minutes of eating the plant. As a result, it is important to be able to identify water hemlock and avoid coming into contact with it.
8 – Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)
Lily of the Valley is a beautiful, sweet-smelling spring flower. However, every part of the plant is poisonous, containing cardiac glycosides that can cause arrhythmias, convulsions, and even death. Lily of the Valley poisoning typically occurs when the plant is ingested, either by mistake or on purpose. The symptoms of Lily of the Valley poisoning can range from mild to severe and include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dizziness, and headaches. In severe cases, Lily of the Valley poisoning can lead to seizures, coma, and cardiac arrest.
If you suspect that someone has ingested Lily of the Valley, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Treatment typically involves supportive care and close monitoring of vital signs. With prompt medical treatment, Lily of the Valley poisoning is usually not fatal. However, it can still be dangerous, so it is important to be aware of the risks before planting this little beauty in your garden.
9 – Larkspur (Delphinium)
Larkspur is a beautiful, but poisonous, perennial flower that blooms in the late spring. All parts of the plant are toxic, but the seeds and flowers are the most dangerous. Larkspur poisoning occurs when people or animals eat any part of a plant. The poison attacks the nervous system, causing tremors, seizures, and paralysis. In severe cases, larkspur poisoning can be fatal. Unfortunately, the plant’s pretty flowers make it attractive to children and animals, who may not realise that it is poisonous. For this reason, it is important to be aware of the dangers of larkspur and take steps to prevent exposure.
If you suspect that someone has been poisoned by larkspur, seek medical attention immediately.
10 – Oleander (Nerium oleander)
Oleander is a beautiful, flowering shrub that is commonly used as an ornamental plant. Unfortunately, it is also highly poisonous. All parts of the Oleander plant contain toxic saponins that can cause severe gastrointestinal irritation, heart irregularities, and even death. Ingesting as little as two leaves can be fatal to a child, and Oleander poisoning is one of the most common causes of plant-related deaths in the world. Oleander poisoning is often compared to foxglove poisoning, as both plants contain similar toxins. If you suspect that someone has ingested Oleander, seek medical attention immediately.
Note: Oleander seeds have been used in Southeast Asia for centuries as a means to commit suicide.
11 – Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)
Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is extremely toxic and can cause severe burns and blisters when its sap comes into contact with the skin and is then exposed to sunlight. The sap contains a compound called furocoumarin, which makes the skin highly sensitive to UV light and can cause severe burns and blisters. Ingestion of the plant can also cause serious health problems, including nausea, vomiting, and even death. It is important to note that giant hogweed should be treated with extreme caution and should never be ingested or handled without protective clothing and gloves. Additionally, it is considered an invasive species in many countries and is illegal to grow in some of them.
It is important to remove it from your property if it is growing there – particularly if you have young children.
As you can see, the 11 plants above are not to be messed with. Some of them produce beautiful flowers and others, tempting berries. In most cases, these plants are most toxic when ingested, although, they can all cause skin irritation and rashes when handled. Even if your skin is resistant to the toxins, you should always wear gloves when handling these plants to prevent the toxins from entering your system through an open wound or accidental transfer to your eyes and mouth.
Garden Doctor Tips
“If you suspect any kind of plant poisoning – SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION IMMEDIATELY!”
“If you have pets that like to investigate and eat plants, these plants are a no-go!”
“Always wear gloves when handling plants, some may look innocent enough, but they can be the ones that do the most damage!”
“If you have young children that are likely to try and eat flowers and berries, it is not a good idea to keep any of the above plants in your garden!”
Frequently Asked Questions
What happens if you eat oleander seeds?
Eating oleander seeds can be deadly. They contain cardiac glycosides, which are toxic and can cause a heart attack. In fact, they are sometimes used as a means of suicide in Southeast Asia.
What makes wolfsbane poisonous?
Wolfsbane is poisonous because it contains an alkaloid called aconitine that can disrupt the normal functioning of the heart.
Are lilies of the valley toxic to humans?
Yes, lilies of the valley are toxic to humans. All parts of the plant contain cardiac glycosides, which can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, weakness, and even death.
Trevor Wright is not just a seasoned horticulturist; he’s the esteemed Garden Doctor. With a BSc in Horticulture and years of hands-on experience in the soil, Trevor has become a trusted mentor for all things gardening. As the founder of Garden Doctor, he’s committed to clarifying the intricacies of gardening, offering straightforward advice that’s rooted in years of practice. His writing is a garden of how-tos, savvy insights, and comprehensive guides that enable individuals to nurture and grow their garden dreams. When he’s not knee-deep in garden beds, Trevor is at his keyboard passing on his green-thumbed wisdom to budding gardeners, ensuring that the legacy of sustainable and joyful gardening blossoms far and wide.