Executioners of the forest: six plants that can kill
People usually expect good things when they see the colour green like a tick beside their name or the ‘go’ signal on a traffic light. In nature, we associate it with life, so it’s even more confusing that some of the deadliest killers lurk in the otherwise gentle world of the plant kingdom.
Toxic or carnivorous, these six plants represent a great danger to both humans and insect:
- Rainbow Plant (Byblis)
- Paternoster Pea (Abrus precatorius)
- Othalanga (Cerbera Odollam)
- Monk’s Hood (Aconitum Napellus)
- Venus Flytrap (Dionaea Muscipula)
- Castor Oil Plant (Ricinus Communis)
Rainbow Plant (Byblis)
The upright and slightly branched byblis has a seemingly harmless name and visually it is anything but threatening. But for many insects, it means the end of a short life.
The plant is teeming with glandular hairs that secrete a slimy, sticky fluid. If an insect lands on the tentacles or leaves of the plant, it means certain death.
Paternoster Pea (Abrus Precatorius)
The Paternoster Pea is a creeper which can grow up to 10 metres high. Its reddish seeds are exceptionally dangerous as they contain the highly toxic substance abrin. Just one of these peas can be fatal for humans.
Othalanga (Cerbera odollam)
Othalanga also carries the chilling name of “suicide tree”. More than any other, the seeds of this plant are used in suicide and murder. The toxin it contains can cause relatively mild symptoms like retching and diarrhoea or, at its the worst, coma and even cardiac arrest.
Monk’s Hood (Aconitum Napellus)
Aconitum Napellus belongs to the ornamental and medicinal plant species. From its appearance, you could easily place it in a flower box. But that’s not a good idea, as just a light touch is enough to stun a body part. All parts of the plant are toxic while two grams of its root are fatal. The symptoms of poisoning include nausea, cardiac arrhythmia and circulatory paralysis.
Venus Flytrap (Dionaea Muscipula)
Any bug which strays into a Venus Flytrap has probably taken its last walk. When the leaves of this plant are irritated by the visit of small spiders and insects - mostly flies and ants - they fold together like lightning. Glands then release a secretion which helps to digest the trapped creatures.
Castor Oil Plant (Ricinus Communis)
Inhaling the seeds of this plant can lead to several extremely nasty symptoms. Along with strong mucosal irritation, kidney, liver, stomach and intestinal damage, vomiting and convulsions, the victim can suffer a painful death caused by just a small number of seeds. The culprit is a toxic protein called ricin.