What happens when someone eats deadly nightshade

The 10 most dangerous poisonous plants in the garden

Most poisonous plants are at home in the tropics and subtropics. But we also have some candidates who pose a high risk potential. Many of the mostly very attractive plants are often used as ornamental plants in the garden or walkers will notice their beauty. Others are particularly dangerous because they look confusingly similar to edible plants or produce fruits that look very tempting to children. The poisonous black nightshade, for example, resembles its relative, the tomato. It is all the more important that you know these plants and also know how to handle them.

First aid in case of poisoning by poisonous plants

Usually there are no effective antidotes for the poison cocktails of the plants. As a first measure you should therefore - after the immediate emergency call with the information about plant poisoning - give medical charcoal immediately, as it binds the toxins to itself. Especially when you have children, it is very important to have medicinal charcoal in granulate or tablet form in your medicine cabinet and to have familiarized yourself with how to use them, because every minute counts in the event of poisoning! If you have seen what your child has ingested and cannot clearly identify the poisonous plant, take a sample with you to the emergency room if possible.

These plants are poisonous

Daphne mezereum

The real daphne can be found in the wild in deciduous and mixed forests, but it is also a popular garden plant. It prefers calcareous and humus-rich soil. The pink flowers of the up to one meter high shrub, which it develops from February to April and which spread a strong scent, are striking. The four-leaf pile, which grows directly from the woody stalks, is followed by red berries in July and August, which are similar in shape and color to currants. This is exactly one of the points that make the daphne dangerous for children. The poison is mainly concentrated in the seeds of the berries and in the bark of the shrub. The two toxins that appear there are mezerin (seeds) and daphnetoxin (bark).

If parts of plants have been consumed, a burning sensation soon occurs in the mouth, followed by swelling of the tongue, lips and oral mucous membranes. Stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea follow. In addition, those affected suffer from dizziness and headaches, which can be attributed to the effect of the plant toxins on the central nervous system and the kidneys. In the course of the poisoning, the person's body temperature and heartbeat rise sharply. Ultimately, the affected person dies of a circulatory collapse. Four to five berries for children and ten to twelve for adults are considered a lethal dose.

Autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale)

The small onion flower is found mainly in damp meadows in Central, Western and Southern Europe. Its pink to purple flowers appear from August to October and are similar to the saffron crocus which then also blooms. The leaves only appear in spring and are easily mistaken for wild garlic. The poison of the autumn crocus, colchicine, is similar to arsenic and is fatal even in small amounts. If the seeds of the plant are consumed (two to five grams are already fatal), the first symptoms of poisoning appear after about six hours in the form of difficulty swallowing and a burning sensation in the throat and mouth area. This is followed by vomiting, stomach cramps, severe diarrhea, a drop in blood pressure and, as a result, the body temperature. After about one to two days, death from respiratory paralysis occurs.

Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)

When fully grown, the short-lived perennial cannot be overlooked, as it already reaches heights of between two and four meters in the second year after sowing. It prefers moist, chalky soils, but is otherwise very undemanding. At the ends of the shoots, the giant hogweed forms large umbellate flowers 30 to 50 centimeters in diameter and the strongly serrated three- and multi-part leaves reach a size of up to one meter. At the base, the tube-like stem, speckled with red spots, reaches a diameter of up to ten centimeters. The imposing appearance was probably also the reason why the plant, which is not native to us, was imported from the Caucasus as an ornamental plant. In the meantime, due to its strong growth and its enormous reproduction rate, it has also spread in the wild in many places. There is no fatal poisoning, but the sap of the plant in contact with sunlight can cause severe, extremely painful burns on the skin that are very slow to heal. The triggers are the phototoxic furocoumarins contained in the juice. Children playing as well as domestic and wild animals are particularly at risk.

Laburnum anagyroides

Originally from southern Europe, the small tree has been cultivated as an ornamental plant for centuries due to its decorative yellow flower clusters. Of course it only occurs in southwest Germany, but was and is often planted in gardens and parks. It is precisely here that small children are often poisoned, because the laburnum forms its fruits in pods that are similar to peas and beans. Playing children therefore consider the kernels to be edible and thus poison themselves. The alkaloids cytisine, laburnine, laburamine and N-methylcytisine are concentrated in the entire plant, but mainly in the pods.

A lethal dose of the toxins in children is around three to five pods (ten to fifteen seeds). The effect of the poisons is insidious, because in the first phase they have a stimulating effect on the central nervous system, but then this turns into the opposite and paralyzes the person affected. The body's usual defense reactions occur during the first hour after consumption: burning sensation in the mouth and throat, severe thirst, vomiting, stomach cramps and an increased body temperature. In the further course, states of excitement and delirium are spoken of. The pupils dilate, muscle spasms occur which, on a lethal dose, can culminate in complete paralysis. Ultimately, death occurs through respiratory paralysis.

Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna)

The deadly nightshade is found mainly in or on deciduous and mixed forests with calcareous soil. With a height of up to two meters, the perennial is easily recognizable from a distance. From June to September it forms bell-shaped, red-brown flowers, which are colored yellow on the inside and crisscrossed by dark red veins. Between August and September the one to two centimeter large berries form, which change their color from green (immature) to black (ripe). The main components of their poison are atropine, scopolamine and L-hyoscyamine, which occur in the entire plant, but are most concentrated in the roots. The tricky thing is that the fruits have a pleasantly sweet taste and therefore do not cause any disgust in children. As little as three to four berries can be fatal for children (ten to twelve for adults).

The first symptoms of poisoning are dilated pupils, reddening of the face, dry mucous membranes, and an increase in heart rate. In addition, erotic excitement is reported that should occur just a few minutes after consumption. This is followed by speech disorders up to complete loss of speech, mood swings, hallucinations and the urge to move. Strong cramps and a slow pulse followed by massive acceleration are also typical. Then unconsciousness occurs, the color of the face changes from red to blue and the body temperature sinks below normal. From this point on there are only two options: Either the body is strong enough and is recovering, or the patient dies of respiratory paralysis in a coma.

Euonymus europaea

The shrubby growing native wood can reach a height of up to six meters and is mainly found in forests and on the edges of forests with moist clay soil. After the flowering period from May to June, intensely orange-red colored, four-lobed capsules develop, which burst open when fully ripe and release the seeds. The colorful fruits, which are interesting for children, are a high source of danger and often end up in the mouth. The alkaloid Evonin acts as the main toxic component. It is not easy to recognize poisoning by the eccentric cone, as the first symptoms only appear after around 15 hours. In the event of poisoning, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps occur. Fortunately, the fatal dose of 30 to 40 fruits is comparatively high, which means that there are rarely fatal accidents.

Yew tree (Taxus baccata)

In nature, the yew tree prefers calcareous soils and mixed forests. The conifer, which is up to 20 meters high, is often used in the garden as a hedge or for green sculptures because it is easy to cut. The red and slimy seed coats are particularly interesting for children - and fortunately the only non-toxic part of the plant. All others contain the highly toxic alkaloid taxine. There have been reports that even skin contact with cut surfaces or ground needles caused slight symptoms of intoxication. After about an hour, those affected experience vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, cramps, dilated pupils and unconsciousness. In the following minutes, the lips turn red. The heart rate rises sharply for a short time and then drops. After about 90 minutes, death from heart failure occurs. If the fruits including the hard-shelled seeds are consumed, the body usually excretes the latter undigested.

Castor Oil (Ricinus communis)

The perennial, which originally comes from Africa, mostly only occurs as an ornamental plant. The one to two meter high castor oil was introduced because of its interesting foliage color, the leaf shape and the conspicuous fruit stands. The stems of the plant are colored reddish brown throughout, the blue-green colored leaves are palmate and can reach a diameter of one meter. The conspicuous fruit stands are divided into two levels. Above are the intensely red colored, spherical flowers with bristle-like outgrowths, below are the smaller male flowers with the yellow stamens.

The castor plant blooms from July to September and then forms seeds in the female flowers. These contain the highly toxic protein ricin, which is fatal even at a dose of 25 milligrams (corresponds to one seed). As with the deadly nightshade, it is dangerous that the taste of the seeds is pleasant and that no warning signal is sent out of the mouth. The usual defense reactions for poisoning such as vomiting, cramps and diarrhea also occur here. In addition, dizziness occurs and the kidneys become inflamed and the red blood cells stick together, which in turn leads to thrombosis. Death occurs after about two days.

Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis)

The small, robust spring bloomer reaches a height of around 30 centimeters and is often used as an ornamental plant because of its beautiful white flowers. The lily of the valley also occurs naturally throughout Germany and prefers deciduous and mixed forests. The danger that emanates from it is - as with the autumn crocus - the confusion with the wild garlic, with which it often grows in the immediate vicinity. It blooms from April to June and forms small, about five millimeters large, red berries from July to September.

The entire plant is poisonous and contains an extensive cocktail of glycosides. The main ingredients are convallatoxol, convallatoxin, convallosid and desglucocheirotoxin. If poisoning occurs, which happens occasionally in the wild garlic season, vomiting, diarrhea and cramps occur. This is followed by dizziness, blurred vision, drowsiness, and profuse urination. Overall, the toxins have an intense effect on the heart, which leads to cardiac arrhythmias, fluctuations in blood pressure and, in extreme cases, heart failure.

Monkshood (Aconitum napellus)

The monkshood occurs mainly in wooded mountain regions, wet meadows and brook banks. However, it can also be found in many ornamental gardens because of its decorative effect. The monkshood gets its name because of the shape of its flowers, which with a little imagination are reminiscent of gladiator or knight helmets. Old names for the plant such as Ziegentod or W├╝rgling quickly make it clear that it is better to keep your hands off the plant. The names are not by chance, because the monkshood is the most poisonous plant in Europe.

Just two to four grams from the tuber is a lethal dose. It is not possible to name just one toxin here, as monkshood contains a whole cocktail of toxic diterpene alkaloids. These include, for example, aconitin, benzoylnaponin, lyaconitin, hypaconitin and neopellin. Aconitine is particularly dangerous because this alkaloid is a contact poison that can be absorbed through the skin and mucous membranes. In the case of careless hobby gardeners, this led to slight symptoms of poisoning such as numbness of the skin and palpitations from touching the tuber. If a lethal dose of poison is reached, death usually occurs within three hours from respiratory paralysis and heart failure.