'If It Touches You At All, You're Done.' Surprising Facts About The Deadliest Plants On Planet Earth.
They seem harmless enough, after all they can't move - right? Would you ever look in your garden and wonder, "Can any of these plants actually kill me?" Well, after reading this, you may start to look at your plants a little differently.
Here, people share facts about the deadliest plants on planet Earth.
1. Theres the ever-terrifying Gympie-Gympie.
The plant is covered in stinging hairs that once touched can inflict pain that lasts for years. One time a guy used it as toilet paper by accident and killed himself because the pain was too strong.
2. I went to Texas State University and one of my Professors told me about this incident involving four students... I couldn't find any articles about it, but one person posted what happened in a blog:
"4 kids at Texas State university made tea from some of the datura that grows around campus. Various reports from others were pieced together to make sense of what happened next. The four were seen in the common room of the dorm playing a loud and lively game of cards, without cards. This led into them taking turns jumping off the table face first into the ground. 2 split off and survived the night in their room without only minor incident. Another chewed his tongue up and was found bloody in the elevator and taken to the hospital. The last girl broke off from the group and tried to make it to the Square (where the bars are), crawling the whole way, about a mile, on asphalt. She had ripped all the skin off her hands and knees and was picked up by the police.
She never returned from that trip. She's still being held for treatment."
3. The machineel tree.
Looks like an apple tree, will burn the crap out of you if you eat it, touch it, contact smoke while burning it, stand under it during rain or acknowledge its existence in any way.
That tree really goes out of its way to mess with everything.
4. Brugmansia (Angel's Drumpfet).
All parts of Brugmansia are potentially poisonous, with the seeds and leaves being especially dangerous. Brugmansia are rich in Scopolamine (hyoscine), hyoscyamine, and several other tropane alkaloids. Effects of ingestion can include paralysis of smooth muscles, confusion, tachycardia, dry mouth, diarrhea, migraine headaches, visual and auditory hallucinations, mydriasis, rapid onset cycloplegia, and death.
The hallucinogenic effects of Brugmansia were described in the journal Pathology as "terrifying rather than pleasurable.""Brugmansia induces a powerful trance with violent and unpleasant effects, sickening after effects, and at times temporary insanity". These hallucinations are often characterized by complete loss of awareness that one is hallucinating, disconnection from reality, and amnesia of the episode, such as one example reported in Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience of a young man who amputated his own penis and tongue after drinking only 1 cup of Brugmansia tea.
5. Seems like a lot of the obvious answers have been covered so here's one that's scary in a different sense. Datura stramonium, better known as Jimson weed or loco weed, is a member of the nighshade family. Its better-known relatives include eggplant, tomatoes, peppers and tobacco. Datura and other nightshades contain a lot of nasty alkaloids; "jimson weed" is notorious among ranchers and farmers, as cows and horses which eat this plant tend to end up very sick or dead. Human toxicity is also well-known. Ever hear of scopolamine, AKA the South American "zombie drug" used to make unsuspecting victims totally compliant to their attackers' every demand? Yep, it comes from Datura and its relatives.
Now the crazy part is (story continued on the next page...).
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Now the crazy thing is that some people intentionally eat the datura plant in order to get high. Used in this way, the plant is most accurately classified as a deliriant. This isn't like LSD, shrooms, weed, ketamine, etc. where in most situations and with responsible usage you are mostly aware that you are high and you've taken drugs. One key feature of deliriants is that you have no idea that you've completely lose touch with reality. Think schizophrenia or dementia: horrifying multi-layered fantasies filled with bizarre nonsensical events, like Inception directed by David Lynch.
Symptoms of datura toxicity include:
-Heart palpitations, sensitivity to light.
-Extremely dry mouth and difficulty urinating.
-Visual and tactile hallucinations: shadows, abstract lines and shapes, spiders, wasps, transparent insects and animals. One particular recurring theme among users of deliriants includes seeing "shadow beings", like spirits from another realm.
-Being unable to distinguish reality from fantasy: losing all idea of time, thinking you are doing things when you're not, not realizing you're doing things when you are. One example: you are lying on your bed and a large transparent tiger walks through the wall. This is completely normal. Then the tiger turns into your best friend from kindergarten and you spend an hour or so chatting and catching up on things. You come to and realize you are standing in the kitchen and you have opened every can of food in the pantry without eating anything.
So in short the plant's effects are absolutely terrifying.
6. The castor bean plant contains high levels of ricin. My boss put himself in the hospital when he was clearing the yard and burned one, slight smoke inhalation had him in hospital for over a week.
7. Water Hemlock. Children have died by using the stems and other plant parts as whistles. The small amount that they got in their mouth was toxic enough to kill. It's one of the most poisonous plants and grows relatively commonly so that's pretty terrifying.
8. Giant hogweed is a member of the carrot/parsnip family, and resembles cow parsnip quite strongly. It's a very tall plant with a crown of clustered white flowers. More dangerously, it looks like a really big version of Queen Anne's Lace, which is an utterly innocuous flower that I remember picking bouquets of when I was a small child. Do not let your small children around giant hogweed.
The problem with giant hogweed lies in the furanocoumarin, a phototoxic compound in the sap that can transfer when a person touches the plant. It gets into the nucleus of a person's skin cells and bonds straight with the DNA, which is never a thing you want to happen. The cells die, and they don't exactly go gentle into that good night (continued on the next page...).
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Signs of hogweed contact begins with a red rash and itching in the contacted area, which blossoms over 48 hours into intensely painful, burning, raised blisters. The sting is one of those asshole kinds that just keep going for months, and even when it's gone, it leaves a nice, purple scar for you to remember it by. Because it's phototoxic, contact with sunlight worsens the reaction - like, say, if you're out on a hike, brush up against it with a bare arm, think nothing of it because it doesn't start hurting immediately and continue spending your lovely afternoon in the sunshine. Furthermore, because the compound is unnoticeable at first, it's hilariously easy to get it on your hands and then rub your eyes. The blindness is usually temporary.
This plant is biennial, invasive, and has a lot of fun popping up in peoples' backyards and waving menacingly at their pets and family. Since it looks innocuous - fairly beautiful, in fact - it often goes under the radar just long enough to mess people up.
9. My mom is the biggest plant lover you will ever meet, and when I was a kid one she made me learn was the difference between Queen Anne's Lace and water hemlock. Why? Because the most common one, Queen Anne's Lace, is a really pretty flower that is a beneficial weed, and you could even eat it if you were lost in the woods (not like I have). The other, water hemlock, also grows everywhere and looks very similar, but is so poisonous you can die from a bite of it, or even feel your lips go numb if you use the stem as a whistle or to spit seeds at someone or whatever. Both grow pretty much all over.
10. The Doll's Eye plant looks hella creepy.
"It's most striking feature is its fruit, a 1 cm diameter white berry, whose size, shape, and black stigma scar give the species its other common name, "doll's eyes"..."
And not that you would want to eat it, but if you did...
"...Both the berries and the entire plant are considered poisonous to humans. The berries contain cardiogenic toxins which can have an immediate sedative effect on human cardiac muscle tissue, and are the most poisonous part of the plant. Ingestion of the berries can lead to cardiac arrest and death." (Source)
11. Nepenthes truncata is where it's at! It's a tropical pitcher plant that has uses modified prey trap, resembling a pitcher to catch it's prey. This long, deep cavity filled with digestive enzymes. What kind of prey do they trap you ask? Well, (continued on the next page...).
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Well, these ridiculous plants eat birds, mice, frogs, you name it. That's right, they can eat small birds and rodents. So. Dang. Cool.
12. Chilean Puya chilensis is my pick. It is also known as the "sheep-eating plant." It can reach massive sizes, and y'all should really just check it out. You won't be disappointed. I guess you could call it passively carnivorous, which to me, is the creepy part about it.
RHS Garden Wisely says, "[...] the striking plant, which produces enormous spikes of neon bright, greeny-yellow flowers, conceals a gruesome secret. In its natural habitat in the Andes it uses its razor sharp spines to snare and trap sheep and other animals, which slowly starve to death and decay at the base of the plant, providing it with the grisly equivalent of a bag of fertiliser."
13. I am a carnivorous plant enthusiast. One that immediately comes to mind is Nepenthes ampullaria, which originally evolved to catch insects (as every other tropical pitcher plant does), but then evolved even more to catch falling leaves instead. So it's a herbivorous carnivorous plant. Well, omnivorous if you want to get all technical about it, as they do still catch bugs. Think about that for a second, just the sheer blind ingenuity of it all. Evolution is cool.
14. I do humanitarian work installing water systems for small rural communities here in the Philippines. This work often requires hiking in mountainous jungle.
There is a tree here the locals call sagay. (pronounced sah guyee). If the leaves touch to your skin it will burn. "You need hospitalization, really," as said to me.
Later, I had grown complacent (story continued on the next page...).
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While walking a leaf just barely touched my neck.
2 days later I was still in the hospital with red burning rash all down the side of my neck and back. It was the most painful experience of my life and I've been stung, bitten, lost a limb in Iraq, and other painful experiences in my life, including an encounter with a box jellyfish that also lead to hospitalization.
Now, years later, the skin in this location is still sensitive to pain.
15. West Indian Lilac. It damn near killed an adult Triceratops in Jurassic Park.
16. I had some mint take over the backyard once...
17. Possessing Cannabis in certain quantities can put you in a cage for the remainder of your life. That seems like a pretty scary plant to me.
18. Generally speaking with plants.
If you consume it and something good happens, it's medicine.
If you consume it and something bad happens, it's poison.
If you consume it and nothing happens, it's salad.
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