Most people enjoy strolling through gardens during
the warm summer months and displaying freshly
cut flowers inside their homes, but did you know
that many plants actually contain potentially
Not all toxic plants grow in exotic forests.
In fact, there are many that grow in our own backyards.
The toxins in these plants originate from certain
types of proteins and amino acids, alkaloids,
glycosides, oxalates, phenols, resins, volatile
oils, and phototoxins.
One way of classifying plant toxins is on the
basis of whether they are heat-stable or heat-labile.
Heat-labile toxins include lectins, proteinase
inhibitors, and cyanogens. Heat-stable plant toxins
include antigenic proteins, condensed tannins,
quinolizidine alkaloids, glucosinolates, gossypol,
saponins, non-protein amino acids (such as S-methyl
cysteine sulphoxide and mimosine), and phyto-oestrogens.
A good example of a well-known toxic plant is
Milkweed. Milkweed is found in abundance across
the United States. The source of Milkweed’s
toxicity comes from Galitoxin Resinoid and Cardenolide.
When eaten by cattle, it is often fatal. When
consumed by humans, it often causes hypotension
and hypothermia. Fortunately, there are treatments
available for those who have been diagnosed with
milkweed poisoning, including sedation and gastrointestinal
toxic plant is Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara).
This species belongs to the vine family and is
found on three continents – North America,
Asia, and Europe. The plant’s fruit is toxic
for humans and animals, but not birds. As the
plant grows, so does the level of its toxicity.
When the fruit from Nightshade is eaten, humans
display a variety of symptoms, including nausea,
dilated pupils, blood in urine, and difficulty
A third example of toxic plants is Black Cherry
or Cabinet Cherry (Prunus serotina), which grows
across North America. This plant contains cyanide,
and death is certain for animals and humans that
consume its cherry.
A final example of a toxic plant is Water Hemlock.
Hemlock was made famous by its use as a punitive
element in ancient Greece. Even Socrates, the
ancient Greek philosopher, was put to death by
The next time you take a stroll outside or display
a bouquet of flowers at your dinner party, remember
to wash your hands thoroughly after you come inside
and finish handling the plants.