Beautiful Flowers, but Are They Deadly?

Notes from a Lancashire Countryman

In a comment posted on my hub "FRUIT AND SEED DISPERSAL MECHANISMS OF PLANTS" fellow hubber jandee asked for more information about dangerous plants. In that hub I stated that the seeds of the Laburnum tree were poisonous especially to children and dogs should they be consumed.

In this hub I will look at some of the plants in the U.K. that fall into the dangerous category. I will start my endeavours with one of our most familiar plants the foxglove. Digitalis purpurea the wild foxglove grows wild in the countryside throughout. However, garden cultivars are also poisonous. Poisoning may occur when the flowers are sucked{by children} or from the consumption of the leaves, stems or seeds.

Digitalis purpurea the wild foxglove is a striking plant. Photograph by D.A.L.
Digitalis purpurea the wild foxglove is a striking plant. Photograph by D.A.L.
Garden cultivars have more colourful,alluring flowers. Photograph by D.A.L.
Garden cultivars have more colourful,alluring flowers. Photograph by D.A.L.

Poisoning by foxglove may produce symptoms of blurred vision, confusion,depression, fainting, headache or a combination of two or more of these. it can make the heart beat slow or irregular, lower the blood pressure, stomach pain and other detrimental effects. prolonged slow poisoning by this plant can cause hallucinations. any one who suspects poisoning by this plant should seek urgent medical attention.

The parsley family of plants produces many herbs that are beneficial to human health and many that are not. One of these plants is well documented for its sinister reputation. Hemlock Conium maculatum, was the plant used to poison Socretes of Greek fame. A small amount of hemlock can cause vomiting, due to the highly narcotic coniine which is found throughout the plant. it is quickly followed by paralysis and eventual death.

Components of hemlock. It is very similar in form to many harmless species.
Components of hemlock. It is very similar in form to many harmless species.

Symptoms of paralysis can occur within half an hour, but the painful death can take up to several hours. This cruel substance does not diminish the patients awareness and he or she will remain concious until they stop breathing. hemlock causes convulsions , however, because of the paralysis they may only appear as shudders. Hemlock is identifiable by its purple blotched stems.

This family Apiaceae has other dangerous members and therefore should be treated with respect. Hemlock Water Dropwort is a very dangerous plant and is much commoner and more wide spread than the previous species. {{ see mu hub " THE PERNICIOUS HEMLOCK WATER DROPWORT". This species has caused many fatalities in the past by being consumed in mistake for the wild celery. Poisoning by this plant causes  great pain, convulsions and sickness. Death can occur if the poison is not dealt with very quickly by medical staff.

Correct identification of this family is vital and if there is any doubt about the plants identity leave well alone.

ALL  members of the buttercup family are poisonous, and should never be taken internally. Apart from all the species of buttercup this family includes lesser celandine {see my hub THOUSANDS OF MINIATURE SUNS }  Marsh marigold Caltha palustris and the spearworts, along with many garden cultivars. One such garden variety of this family is Monk's hood - {wolfbane}, Aconitum napellus, which often escapes into the wild. This is a deadly poisonous plant.

Monks hood is a very poisonous plant. Photograph courtesy of Bernd Haynold.
Monks hood is a very poisonous plant. Photograph courtesy of Bernd Haynold.

Every part of the plant of the plant is poisonous both to humans and many animals including dogs. Its active ingredients include Aconitum and other similar alkaloides. The symptms of poisoning are a tingling sensation in the mouth and on the tongue along with the sensation that insects are crawling all over the skin. Nausea and vomiting, breathing becomes laboured, the pulse is irregular and weak and the skin becomes cold and clammy. Urgent medical attention should be sought immediately.

Now to a plant that is relatively harmless to humans, but dog owners need to be wary of it. The burdock plant Articum lappa has prickly burs about the flower head. These burs attach themselves to fur quite easily. This may cause skin irritation  to the animal. A dog will naturally lick the burs in order to remove it which may cause damage to the mucous membrane to the mouth and tongue, which will require veterinary attention.

The flower heads have burs which easily attach themselves to animal fur. Photograph by DA.L.
The flower heads have burs which easily attach themselves to animal fur. Photograph by DA.L.
The notorious ragwort. Photograph by D.A.L.
The notorious ragwort. Photograph by D.A.L.

The ragwort is well documented as being harmful to horses. This was once a disputed fact. However, science has proved that the poison accumulates in the horses body over a period of time, rather than it taking affect immediately after consumption. It is less well known that ragwort is also dangerous to dogs. Dogs that tend to eat grass can accidentally take small amounts of the plant along with the grass. A small amount of this herb in its fresh state can cause a dog great harm.

ALL members of the nightshade family in the countryside are poisonous, many of which produce berries that are tempting to children. Just a small amount of the berries can cause fatalities in children. The deadly nightshade Atropa belladonna with its bell shaped flowers should be left well alone, as its common name suggests. 

Another member of this family that is very common is the Woody nightshade or bittersweet. Solanum dulcamara. This woody climber produces unmistakable flowers.The purple blue petals curve away from the yellow cone shaped anthers. The leaves are arrow shaped and untoothed. The plant is poisonous but the berries are alluring especially to children. it may take as little as five berries to be life threatening.

The berries of bittersweet in this photograph are just turning to the alluring red berries that are tempting to children. Photograph by D.A.L.
The berries of bittersweet in this photograph are just turning to the alluring red berries that are tempting to children. Photograph by D.A.L.
Components of the bittersweet.Courtesy of Wikipedia
Components of the bittersweet.Courtesy of Wikipedia

The list above is by no means complete but it does show a broad section of the dangerous plants, that we need to be aware of. It may be surprising that nearly all of these plants have been used medicinally. For example the drug digitalis is an extract from the foxglove. It is used in the tiny heart tablets to regulate the heart beat. However, any products that use extracts from these plants must be done commercially in exact amounts or by professional herbalists. None of them because of the reasons given above should ever be used in home made herbal preparations or consumed. Finally I would like to thank jandee for inspiring this hub.

THERE ARE MANY GOOD BOOKS AVAILABLE TO HELP WITH IDENTIFICATION.

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Comments 34 comments

D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 20 months ago from Lancashire north west England Author

GarnetBird,

Thank you for your kind words. Spring is my favourite time of the year. fresh new life after the long dreary winter. Best wishes to you.


GarnetBird profile image

GarnetBird 20 months ago from Northern California

Good hub!!Lovely photos. I lived in the UK one year; the springs are wonderful.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 23 months ago from Lancashire north west England Author

aesta1,

Hi, although beautiful there are some plants that you must be aware of. Thank you for taking the time to read and for leaving your comment it is appreciated. best wishes to you.


aesta1 profile image

aesta1 23 months ago from Ontario, Canada

These flowers look so beautiful and as you say alluring. Never did I know that they have hidden poison in them.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Joy56,

Hi B thank you for your kind comments best wishes to you.


Joy56 profile image

Joy56 2 years ago

Beautiful and informative hub


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

VioletteRose,

Glad to have been of help to you. I enjoy your articles on the flora {and their uses} from your country. Thank you for visiting and your kind comment. Best wishes to you.


VioletteRose profile image

VioletteRose 2 years ago from Chicago

This is so helpful, it is always important to know about the toxicity of plants. As you said, it is better to leave them if you don't know much. Thanks so much for writing this!


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 3 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

JPSO138,

Hi Nice to meet you. Yes it is true some of our most beautiful plants can be poisonous. As you say they can very easily be compared to people or to be more precise people's nature. Best wishes to you.


JPSO138 profile image

JPSO138 3 years ago from Cebu, Philippines, International

Your hub title did arouse my curiousity. I did not regret reading as I learned many things. Well, truly indeed we have to be careful. Perhaps it is right to say that flowers are just like people. Looks can be deceiving. Great hub and up for this one!


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 3 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

DDE,

Thanks Devika for your kind comments. Plants have been beneficial to human health for centuries however, as we have seen some can be detrimental to human health. Best wishes to you.


DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

BEAUTIFUL FLOWERS, BUT ARE THEY DEADLY? so interesting to know about such flowers, often one could pick the wrong one. Just looking at the beauty of a flower allows ones mind to run further and forget about the dangers of the actual flower you have certainly opened my eyes here about flowers. Great photos and always an informative hub from you.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

So very interesting and voted up. Thanks for sharing and enjoy your day.

Eddy.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 3 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Hi 2uesday,

Thank you for your visit and for taking the time to comment. You are quite right that people, especially younger children need to be aware of the toxic nature of the plants that appear so tempting. Best wishes to you.


2uesday profile image

2uesday 3 years ago from - on the web, I am 2uesday.

A useful and informative page and well worth reading, as it is important to know that even beautiful plants can cause problems.

The photos here are useful as they can provide a helpful warning to parents as to some of the plants that can be dangerous. Pet owners also need to be aware of this type of risk in gardens and when out walking.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 3 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Fossillady, Hi,

Foxgloves are beautiful plants with enchanting flowers. And although they are poisonous they have been and still are used in the manufacture of heart tablets. However, this needs to be extracted and administered by professional people. Best wishes to you.


Fossillady profile image

Fossillady 3 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

The foxglove is so pretty and many people add them to their landscape so its especially good to know about that one . . . thank you for sharing! :O)


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 4 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Glad to have been of help, best wishes to you.


dear d.a.l 4 years ago

thanks for the usful info it took me just a moment to relize that plant grows in my backyard


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

WordCustard, nice to hear from you neighbour, you are very welcome. Thank you for your visit and for taking the time to comment. Best wishes to you.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

WordCustard you are very welcome. Thank you for your visit and for taking the time to comment. Best wishes to you.


WordCustard profile image

WordCustard 6 years ago from Scotland

This is very useful information to know. I was aware that foxgloves were poisonous but had no idea that the humble and friendly looking buttercup was too! Thanks for such an interesting look at the hidden dangers of British flowers and plants.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Hi Peggy W, thank you for reading and for leaving your appreciated and encouraging comment.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

Interesting and useful information with beautiful photos and illustrations as I have come to expect from you. Rating this up!


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

McWebster thank you too, for visiting and for leaving your appreciated comments.


MCWebster profile image

MCWebster 6 years ago

Thank you so much for this hub. Very detailed and informative. Beautiful photos, too!


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

equealla, thank you once again for reading and for leaving your wise and appreciated comments. Best wishes to you.


equealla profile image

equealla 6 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

It makes me wonder, why will there be such dangerous plants growing where children and animals roam. What was the purpose of them being there. Sigh, I guess we will not find all the answers to all the questions in this life. Mean time, we need to educate the younger generations. Your hub is preserving wonderful knowledge for this purpose.

Thank you so much again, for producing these excellent articles.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Hi Varenya, you are welcome. I enjoy your hubs tremendously.Thank you for your kind comments. Best wishes to you.


Varenya profile image

Varenya 6 years ago

Hi D.A.L. Your hubs are always very interesting and your photos are a delight for the eyes! Thanks for sharing!


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Hi, msorenson, I believe you are right and like I said in the hub the drug as long been used in heart medicine. But it is very poisonous in its fresh state.Thank you for your visit and for taking the time to comment. Best wishes

jandee your welcome, grass seed is notorious for getting into the ears of dogs causing them much irritation. They can also suffer from hay fever. Dogs do not show the symptoms like humans but rather scratch themselves a lot.Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.Best wishes.

Nell, nice to hear from you, your very welcome. Hope the pictures help you with your family lessons. Thank you for your appreciated comments. Best wishes.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

Hi, I think we forget how dangerous some of these are, I am so pleased that you put them together like this as i was trying to explain some of them to my family the other day, definitely bookmarked so I can show them! cheers nell


jandee 6 years ago

Hello D.A.L and what a surprise I got ! A hub with my name on ! Wow and thanks. I am in the fields and woods at least four time daily and cass.has got small lumps all over his back-fading now- I think it is a long grass with tiny flower/seeds on as he loves to roll in it for ages and I remember a vet ,years ago when my other dog had similiar,saying it was grass seed but the most .insidious is ,I think ,ragwort as it is so common. I wish the park gardeners would sort it, it just appears everywhere,

extremely useful info D.A.L thanks everso,jandee


msorensson profile image

msorensson 6 years ago

My memory could be a little rusty but I distinctly remember foxglove being a source of some kind of herbal treatment, a potential anti-tumour agent.

Thank you for the hub.

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