Blooming poison: dangerous plants

Nice, but harmful to your health: what you need to know about crops such as monkshood, daphne, laburnum, yew, hogweed, deadly nightshade, autumn crocus, eucatelibs, castor and lily of the valley

Even if the fruits look like harmless berries: hands off! This is the deadly nightshade, a highly poisonous plant

© Botanikfoto / Steffen Hauser

A bird's feather sealed the fate of the Roman emperor Claudius in 54 AD: after a mushroom poisoning, it was supposed to trigger a gag reflex in him - but it was soaked with monkshood extract. The vegetable poison reliably transported the ruler to the afterlife. Rumor has it that his wife Agrippina was involved in the plot.

The blue monkshood, which still adorns many gardens today, is one of the deadliest plants in Europe. All parts contain highly toxic aconitine, which penetrates the skin, paralyzes breathing and ultimately leads to heart failure. "Be sure to wear gloves if you have to touch the shrub," advises master gardener Thorsten Emmermann, owner of a garden center in Wiesbaden.

Poisonous ornamental plants

Many ornamental plants are poisonous. "This is how you ward off predators and parasites," explains Emmermann. Nevertheless, children and adults rarely poison themselves from plants, according to the toxicologist Dr. Daniela Acquarone, who heads the poison emergency call at the Berlin Charité:

"Adults especially when they mistake edible plants for inedible ones, for example wild garlic and autumn crocus. Or when they abuse poisonous plants such as hydrangea or thorn apple as drugs."

Most cases of poisoning are mild. Deadly green rarely grows in this country: in the wild, henbane, thorn apple, deadly nightshade and hemlock, in gardens gold rain, monkshood, autumn crocus, angel's trumpet and castor oil.

Healing or deadly, depending on the dose

The effect is often a question of the dose. Two leaves of the foxglove are fatal; as a medicine, the plant relieves heart problems in lower doses. Site conditions, degree of ripeness - or the preparation also determine the toxicity. This is how rowanberries can be eaten when cooked.

Fortunately, poisonous plants usually don't taste good: If you eat parts of them, you usually spit them out immediately. If they get into the stomach anyway, spontaneous vomiting often prevents the body from absorbing a lot of poison.

A call to the poison information center or the emergency number 112 will clarify what needs to be done. An emergency doctor should be called in the event of severe symptoms of intoxication. To prevent things from going that far, Daniela Acquarone advises only picking plants with well-founded expertise and avoiding highly toxic garden plants for children in the household.

Poisonous cones

© Imago Stock & People / Günter Fischer


The blue flowers hang on their stems like little hats from June to August - pretty but deadly. All parts of the plant that grows on mountain slopes, stream banks, forest edges and in numerous private gardens are extremely poisonous: They contain so-called alkaloids.

Even when touched, the nerve poison penetrates uninjured skin. Tingling, burning and numbness are the first symptoms. This is followed by severe vomiting and cardiac arrhythmias with fatal consequences.

If parts of the plant get into the mouth, they should be removed immediately. In addition, call an emergency doctor as soon as possible in the event of poisoning.

Daphne - Not to be confused with currants

© Shutterstock / Jacek Jacobi


It is poisonous in all parts of the plant. From July onwards, the red, appetizing-looking berries, which resemble currants, are particularly problematic.

The lethal dose is four to five berries in children and ten to twelve in adults. The real daphne can be found in deciduous and mixed forests, but it is also a popular garden plant.

Poisonous goldilocks

© Shutterstock / Imfoto


The bright yellow flowers hang down in long clusters from the plant, which is up to five meters high. The golden rain has its heyday between June and July. Toxic alkaloids are found in the seeds, fruits and flowers of the plant. In addition to gastrointestinal problems, dilated pupils, tremors, and cramps can occur.

If possible, the parts of the plant should be spat out immediately and sufficient amounts of water supplied. If the symptoms mentioned appear: Call an emergency doctor.

Red ornament

© ddp Images / Peter Himmelhuber


The yew tree, which is up to ten meters high, grows as an ornamental plant in gardens and parks. Their needles stay green all year round. The red, non-toxic cup that the plant uses to protect its seeds is striking.

Needles and seeds contain alkaloids. If parts of plants have been put in the mouth and bitten into, dilated pupils and problems in the digestive tract can occur. Cardiac arrhythmias are also possible. It is essential to drink fluids and call the emergency doctor as soon as possible.

Beware of burns!

© Panthermedia / Peter PfÄNDER


The giant hogweed grows up to five meters high on the edges of the forest, paths and stream banks. The hollow, ribbed stems and white flowers are typical. All parts of the plant contain so-called furocoumarins.

These substances can cause redness, wheals, blisters, or itching on the skin when exposed to sunlight. In the worst case, inflammation occurs that resembles severe burns and must be treated as an inpatient in the hospital. Contact a dermatologist immediately after contact.

First aid: act quickly now!

  • Remove plant parts and berries from the mouth, either by spitting them out or rinsing them out with water, tea or the like.
  • Refrain from drinking milk. It favors the absorption of poison.
  • Call the poison information center as soon as possible (see information box below) or call the emergency doctor on 112!
  • Save parts of plants so that the plant can be identified and appropriate treatment instituted.
  • Under no circumstances should you induce vomiting in those affected.

Great! Cherries !!!!

© Botanikfoto / Steffen Hauser

Deadly nightshade

The sweet taste of the berries (ripe July to October) belies the poisonous effect. The deadly nightshade grows in empty areas, on paths and in gardens. Roots, leaves and berries contain alkaloids. Skin reddening occurs on contact.

After consumption, those affected complain of thirst and dry mucous membranes. You are restless, have hallucinations and convulsions, and are hyperventilating. Spit out the berries, drink plenty of water and call the emergency doctor.

This is not wild garlic!

© juniors @ wildlife / A. Beads

Autumn crocus

It is as beautiful as it is deadly: the plant, which can be up to 40 centimeters tall, grows in damp meadows and in gardens. It unfolds its full splendor in August, when the leaves turn pink and purple. In spring, when it is not yet in bloom, it is often mistaken for wild garlic.

The plant has a high alkaloid content, especially seeds and bulbs. The consequences of poisoning only appear after a few hours.

Common symptoms include nausea and bloody diarrhea. In addition, it leads to shortness of breath and, as a result, often to heart failure. If possible, parts of the plant should be spat out. It is important to keep hydrated, and call an ambulance.

Catholic headgear

© Shutterstock / photolike


The flowers of the plant in June resemble the headdress of cardinals. In September the fruits show themselves in a striking shade of red. The ephemera can often be found in gardens and parks and can grow up to three meters high.

Various parts of the eucoat are poisonous: the bark, leaves and seeds contain alkaloids and compounds that have an effect on the heart. The consequences of poisoning usually only show after hours.

Gastrointestinal complaints are typical, and occasionally also slight cardiac arrhythmias. Make sure you have enough fluids, see a doctor if you have complaints

Spiky bioweapon

© iStock / Tatiana Mironenko

Castor oil

The processed oil of the castor tree is known as a laxative. Few people know, however, that the seeds pose a deadly threat and are classified as a biological weapon.If you have small children, you should be particularly careful: it is best to remove the fruit clusters before the seeds ripen.

In addition to the toxic alkaloid ricinine, they contain the highly toxic ricin. The insidious: The marbled seeds not only look very tempting, they supposedly also have a pleasant, hazelnut-like taste. Eating just a few seeds is fatal for children and adults.

Symptoms of poisoning do not appear for hours: nausea, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, followed by liver and kidney damage. If left untreated, those affected die of cardiac or circulatory failure after 48 hours. Call an emergency doctor at the slightest suspicion of poisoning.

Summer vegetation

© Imago Stock & People / Harald Lange

lily of the valley

The white bells appear from May to June in wooded areas, bushes and gardens. Leaves, berries and flowers contain a poison that affects the heart. The milder symptoms of intoxication include gastrointestinal complaints.

If larger amounts have been consumed, cardiac arrhythmias can occur. Then an emergency doctor is required. Until then, drink enough fluids.

The brochure "Risk Plant" provides further information:

The poison emergency call can be reached via regional centers, not nationwide: