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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Some wicked plants

Steve and I took in the "Wicked Plants" at the science museum April, 2015. 
What took me so long posting this one? Been a year, but still interesting.

Science Museum of Virginia

Entrance to-Wicked Plants exhibit
A beautiful and seemingly harmless arrangement of flowers
or are they?

Oh yes before I begin.   We both purchased the book "Wicked Plants"

The author was signing books purchased that day and signing ours.

making our way around displays

Coloration in plants and it's warnings.
Red color of berries is also a way that plants use aposematism, letting potential eaters know that they are poisonous like the holly berry and there is a little snippet of the leaves and berry next to info.

No picture but if you look up Belladonna nightshade there are plenty to see

An interesting on here is called the  Teddy Bear Cholla plant.

also known as jumping cholla
becasue just the slightest touch will have a small arm of the plant seemingly jump off of 
the mother plant onto you or passing animal to ensure survival.


White snakeroot 
Plant that killed Lincolns Mother
contains toxic alcohol, tremetol.
When consumed by cattle, goats, sheep and horses their
meat and milk become poisonous. 
When meat or milk is consumed,  this "milk sickness" will likely be deadly to both person and animal
In the  19th century when European Americans began settling in the plants mid western habitat, 
thousands were  killed by milk sickness. 
Most notably Nancy Hanks Lincoln.

What happened to Bella?

Nature bead
Juice from rosary pea is lethal

A pricked finger.   Juice from peas entered bloodstream and killed her.

Other names for it are love bean, crabs eye and prayer bead and few others.

Many of us and especially me know what burrs are,  they used to stick to every stitch of clothing that was worn when walking through where they were growing , accidently that is.
This plant to me is WICKED

Rubber Tree
we had one or two in the house growing up
I thought they were pretty
Milky white sap contains latex and was at one time harvested to make rubber. 
Allergic reactions to latex can be serious for some.
Info below if you can read it.

Manchineel tree

Carribean trees are poisonous
sap contains skin irritants so potent even with rain falling off  the leaves can cause skin to blister
fruit is fatal if ingested, the fruit looks like an apple.  

Such a pretty flower - All plant parts contain andromedotoxin and glucoside arbutin, and can sicken grazing animals and humans.

Belongs to the night shade family-All plant parts contain toxic alkaloids atropine, hyoscyamine, and, 
scopolamine.  Seeds are poisonous.
Believed to originated in Mexico  
Also called the Devils Snare.

This flourished near our creek. 
All plant parts the information says,  contain the toxins oxalic acid and phytolaccotoxin.   The roots are most poisonous.
Not reccomended but young green leaves can be eaten after boiling(do not drink the boiled water).
Older leaves highly toxic.

Grows well in Virginia along with many others shown .  
Contains several alkaloids related to strychnine which can affect livestock
when ingested.  Humans have been poisoned by sucking the nector.
Bees consuming nectar also can die.

Young leaves and acornss contain toxic pyrogallol, gallotannins, polyhydroxyphenolic which are toxic to cattle and sheep with mortality as high as 70 percent.   Let the squirrels have them.

Gas plant -  When temperatures rise, the plant covers itself in fragrant, sticky, and highly flammable oil.   If ignited , the plant explodes , killing off neighboring plants to make room for it's offspring.

Below is one way the gas plant was displayed on our tour of "wicked plants", in the toilet.

contains irritant and not highly toxic
adominal pain, diahrrhea, convulsions, and death in livestock
As little girls we would hold the butter cup under each others chin and if the chin glowed a little yellow, it meant we liked butter.  Even if it didn't glow,  we still loved butter.
Somehow the light would reflect through the petal layer and reflect back.  

stinking Iris - Native to Great Britain, the plant earned it's name because of it's rancid odor, reminisent of roast beef or burning rubber.

sign says forget the phoenix
Pitch Pine 
is actually the first thing to rise from the ashes
Plant produces a highly flammable resin and is highly posionous to cattle and sheep
making it a serious threat to the arid regions of the U.S. where it is found
formerly used as a source of pitch or turpentine

The dark side of this plant is that it's an invasive species especially in woodlands of North America
It's importation and sale is now prohibited in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Myself,  I like the red color in the fall.     
  Like the Red Tip shrubs years ago, they were  way overdone in the landscape.

Back to this seemingly harmless display

 Delphinium - greek word delphis meaning dolphin
resembling the shape of a bottle nose dolphin
causes vomiting and death if ingested.

all parts of tulip plant are toxic.  One chemical, cortol, also found in human urine can be as irritating as the urushiol in poison ivy.

Monks Hood - I love the color of this plant.

Grows in meadows and have noticed  in flower garden borders, especially now since I know  how toxic they are.   I wouldn't use as a cut flower because of grand kids, I won't grow at all.  Careful not to get any sap from the flower on exposed skin.
contains the toxin aconotine, extremely toxic, lethal.

Growing up, I remember mom calling this plant a funeral flower.
Variety of toxic chemical including natural insecticide.  If you like snake stew, it's used as a thickener.

Pt. one

→  wicked two 


  1. Hi Betsy, I only just mentioned this in my latest blog post about not knowing enough about poisonous plants, and gave a direct link to this post. Thanks so much. I found it fascinating.

  2. I am glad you did Denise, thanks.

  3. this was a fascinating read. thanks for sharing this information.


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