Pretty but Poisonous Plants

Many people know what happens when one comes into contact with poison ivy or poison oak – the affected skin areas become acutely inflamed. In the early stages of the inflammation, tiny blisters densely cover the intensely itching and swollen skin areas. Linear blisters also usually appear. The resinous or waxy substance found in poison ivy or poison oak causes the poisoning.

Other plants, found in various geographical regions, have been identified to cause similar skin inflammation. Some of these poisonous plants look so attractive, some people come too close to, or even touch them, completely unaware of the dangers these deceptively-looking plants present.

An acronym, or initialism, is apt for six of these pretty though poisonous plants – FALLA-C: Foxglove, Arum lily, Lantana, Laburnum, Angel’s trumpet, and Christmas rose. These six pretty, poisonous plants are known to cause serious illnesses or, in some cases, even death.

Foxgloves, which belong to the figwort family of plants, do contain some medicinal properties; it is in these plants from which digitalis, a heart tonic, is derived. However, every part of these plants contains poison; getting in contact with these poisonous plants can cause stomach pain, diarrhea, and even arrhythmia (irregularity in pulse or heart rate).

Arum lilies are flower-like herbs that grow in damp places. These poisonous plants are known for their distinctive gold flower spike and white sheath, both of which contain calcium oxalate-laced crystals that are as sharp as needles. These poisonous crystals can puncture the tongue and throat and introduce a substance that can cause swelling and an ensuing severe stomach inflammation.

Lantanas are shrubs that bear umbels of brightly-colored flowers. Great caution should be taken when getting near these poisonous plants as their leaves are known to cause dermatitis. The fruits, particularly unripe ones, carry such poison that can cause serious respiratory disorders and gastroenteritis when ingested.

Laburnums, which grow in cool-climate regions, are known for their pendulous, yellow flowers and hard, dark wood. The poisonous substance these plants contain is actually used in medicine as an emetic (medicine to induce vomiting) and/or as a cathartic (purgative medicine). Every part of these plants is poisonous; therefore, those who tend gardens on which these plants grow should wear gloves, especially when collecting clippings or pruning.

Angel’s trumpets are attractive for their pendulous, white to pale apricot flowers that are sweet smelling, especially at night. All parts of these poisonous plants, however, are so toxic that, when eaten, can cause extreme thirst and convulsions. In more serious cases, it can cause coma which may lead to death.

Christmas roses are hellebores which are called as such because of their white or maroon, rose-like flowers that bloom during the winter months of December to February. The fact that few other plants are in bloom during this season makes Christmas roses especially attractive. Swallowing any part of these poisonous plants can result in severe gastroenteritis.

Obviously, one has to avoid contact with any of these six poisonous plants (or with other known poisonous plants for that matter) to keep away from the harm they can cause. Children, who are more susceptible (than adults) to the damaging effects the poison in these plants can bring, should be prevented from getting near these plants.

But in the event of an accidental contact, the affected skin areas should be immediately washed with strong soapsuds or a salt solution. Much of the poison can be neutralized if this is done within a few minutes from the time the contact happened.