When most people think of plants, they picture beautiful beds of flowers or sturdy trees to fill out a front lawn. Most don’t picture savage organisms that can destroy you almost instantly – but it’s completely true.

Some deadly plants get into your food, some produce deadly toxins that can be transferred through touch. These most deadly plants seem like they have a mean streak in them, and with the way they go out of their way to end you, you’d be right to be a little afraid.

Some of the most dangerous plants are pretty or unassuming, and can get into your system simply because they seem harmless. After all, who would think a pretty blue flower would kill you upon being picked, or that taking shelter from the rain under a tree would end in blindness?

So, if you’re ready to learn about dangerous plants, and hopefully learn to avoid them, read on. You may find out some of these plants are ones you’ve come in contact with before!

The Manchineel Tree Can Cause Death Just By Standing Near It

This tree, often found in Central and South America, is also sometimes called the “Death Apple,” and for very good reason. For one thing, it supposedly killed Juan Ponce de Leon. The small apples that grow on the branches may look appetizing, but they are deadly poisonous. Even a single bite can knock you out like Snow White, but this time a kiss from a handsome prince won’t wake you up.

But this tree isn’t just deadly if you eat from it. Even being near a Manchineel tree can spell doom for you. Touching the trunk or sap, picking leaves, and even breathing the air in its vicinity can cause severe burns on your skin. Get any of that in your eyes, and you can go blind. And if it’s raining, you’re in for even more trouble: the water that drips on you from the tree can injure you. Even the air around it can cause a pain in your lungs, meaning that this tree is harmful and even deadly without you having to eat from it or touch it.

You probably know that both poison oak and poison ivy can be a serious pain. It itches, leaves blisters and rashes on your skin, and can even leave scarring in extreme cases. And all you have to do is accidentally rub up against it. But, surprisingly, these frustrating plants can also, in very rare cases, cause death.

Both poison oak and ivy like to curl up next to, or in the midst of, other plants. This means if someone is trying to burn a patch of land clear, they can also end up burning some poison oak or poison ivy. Big mistake. The smoke from these plants when burned can get into your lungs and throat, and can cause a reaction so strong your throat will swell shut and you’ll die. Really, ingesting enough of the oils in any way can cause death, though luckily most often it’s just painful and annoying.

The Rosary Pea Is The Nightmare Of Jewelers Worldwide

The rosary pea is commonly listed as one of the most poisonous plants in the world, and it’s earned that name. Even eating a single cracked pea can cause death, despite their inviting red color. That being said, this pea kills one type of person more than others – and it doesn’t happen by eating.

For centuries jewelers have used this pea as a bead because of its unique colors and shapes. The act of making it into a bead is incredibly risky. Using a needle, these jewelry makers try to poke a hole through the pea which requires incredibly steady hands. All it takes is one slip and they can prick their finger with the contaminated needle. The poison from the pea then enters the bloodstream leading to death. There are many reports of jewelers dying after pricking their finger while trying to make things using the rosary pea.

Giant Hogweed – Britain’s Most Deadly Plant

It’s true that giant hogweed is a pretty cool looking plant. It can grow up to six feet in height and has white flowers on top, looking like some sort of prehistoric giant. But, of course looks can be deceiving and the sap of this plant is intensely toxic. It can cause severe burns and even blistering if it touches your bare skin, but symptoms only show up when the skin is exposed to sunlight. If the sap gets in your eyes, it can cause you to go blind. Most of all, it you step on this plant or it gets into your blood, it can cause your quick and painful death.

In the UK, it is a criminal offense to plant them, for good reason. They kill children every year and are known as the most dangerous plant in Britain. To top it off, this plant likes to spread like crazy. It can produce up to 50,000 seeds per year and is incredibly invasive, so watch your step out there.

For the most part, oleander is pretty and makes a nice addition to any landscaping upgrade. It is also deadly if ingested, which means children and animals are susceptible to its numerous toxins, and have been known to die after touching and eating it. Its sap can also cause skin irritation if you pick leaves with your bare hands.

However, this is another plant that will come for you, specifically if you burn it. The smoke from this plant can cause irritation as well as an intoxicated state in those who breathe it. More than that, it can be incredibly deadly if the smoke gets into your throat and lungs and can end you pretty quickly. Many people who try to burn their yard waste in compost heaps have found just how harmful this pretty plant can be if not treated with care.

The Gympie’s Lethal Touch

Photo: Dick van Toorn / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

This plant is also known as Dendrocnide moroides and is native to northeast Australia. It likes to live in lush green environments and doesn’t exactly look deadly, but that’s all a trick. It takes just one chance of brushing up against the leaves or stems to feel an excruciating pain that can quickly lead to death.

This plant stings you with hundreds of tiny, venomous needles that can inflict pain that can last for months on end, and may reoccur for years after you touch the plant. In worse cases, you’ll start with feeling a burning sensation which will quickly progress to a severe reaction to the toxin. Without medical care, you can be dead within hours. Sometimes even being near the plant can cause irritation to your eyes and nose, and may even cause nose bleeds if you’re very sensitive to it.

The Cerbera Odollam Tree

Also called the Cerbera Odollam, you can bet any tree with a name like “the suicide tree” is seriously deadly under the right circumstances. While most of the plants on this list are deadly through means other than direct ingestion, this one gets a place on the list because of how the plant is commonly used. Yes, it’s used for suicide, but just as often this tree is used for murders.

It only take a few seeds in any food to poison the whole dish to a deadly degree. The poison is undetectable by most normal toxicology tests, so if you poison someone this way, you can get away with it more easily. And the death is certainly not quick. It involves stomach cramping, diarrhea, and severe pain.

Monkshood, The Dangerous Beauty

Monkshood may look like a beautiful decorative flower, but in reality its incredibly dangerous to be around. Simply touching the plant can end you in as little as four hours. And eating the blue petals? A death sentence.

In one case in 2014, an unsuspecting gardener by the name of Nathan Greenaway was working in a millionaire’s yard when disaster struck. He absent-mindedly walked past a Monkshood plant, letting it brush against his bare skin. He soon fell ill and was rushed to the hospital, but the doctors could not figure out what was wrong. He died five days later from multiple organ failure and all it took was one misstep around this otherwise unassuming flower.

White Snakeroot Hides Out In Cow’s Milk

Photo: kengi2000 / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

White snakeroot does destroy people when ingested, but not in the way you might expect. In fact, it seems like white snakeroot has found a very insidious way of getting into our bodies, and you’d never see it coming. While humans know better than to eat this white-flowered plant, cows don’t, and they like to chow down on the stuff. This means they ingest the poison, it passes into their body and, sometimes, into their milk. For this reason, death by white snakeroot is sometimes called “milk sickness.”

In 1818, Abraham Lincoln’s family moved to Southern IN. Nancy Lincoln, his mother, went to help out a local family who was sick. It turns out these people were sick after the their milking cow ate white snakeroot, and Nancy soon ingested the poisonous milk as well. It killed her in October of that year. Luckily, milk regulations of today has removed all chance of this poisoning from store-bought milk.

Wild Black Cherry Tree Can Turn Toxic

When you think of cherries, you probably think of a sweet red fruit. Unfortunately, this plant actually has a bit of a mean streak as well. When the tree is stressed by weather conditions or disease, it causes the leaves and branches to wilt. This makes them highly toxic. In fact, it creates a cyanide that can kill livestock if ingested and this can also happen to humans.

Though very unlikely, it is possible a person could accidentally ingest a leaf while trying to pick and eat cherries that would otherwise be tasty. This tree is generally not deadly, but if you stress this tree out it will defend itself from both cows and hungry children, so be careful what you eat.


Photo: Djtanng / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

You may know hemlock as the plant that killed Socrates. The great philosopher and teacher drank the plant as a means of execution after he was sentenced to exile or death in court, and many other prisoners have suffered the same fate over the years. But, even when not ingested directly, hemlock can still pack one heck of a punch.

The seeds of hemlock can sometimes be attractive to birds who will eat it without much of a care. This is unfortunate for any hunters who bring down these birds though, because the seeds make the very meat of an animal deadly to us. That’s right, eating some pheasant who chowed down on hemlock seeds can still earn you a trip to the morgue! It should also be noted breathing the smoke of the plant can be deadly as wll, so it’s better to just stay away from hemlock.

Stinging Nettles Inject Toxins Into Unsuspecting Humans

It’s true that most of the time stinging nettles are just annoying and painful little plants. Most do not even require medical attention, despite what’s happening to your body. When you’re stung by the tiny barbs of a stinging nettle species, a neurotoxin gets into your blood stream causing itching, pain, and general irritation. But people have died from certain species, including one particular case in 1961.

A young man not wearing much protective clothing was out hunting in New Zealand when he came across some very thick brush. Assuming everything was fine, he pushed through the pants to continue on his way. But this was one hunting trip that wasn’t going to end in success. Instead, he was stung by a huge amount of Stinging Nettle, and he got so many neurotoxins in his system it became deadly. He died from respiratory failure five hours later in excruciating pain.

Although this case is unique, it still goes to show that you should be careful where you step. Poisonous plants are out there, and you don’t even need to eat them in order for them to bring you down.