The land down under might have a well-established reputation for dangerous animals, but when it comes to poisonous plants, Australia is no different. Don’t be fooled by these seemingly harmless leaves and flowers – there are more than one thousand toxic plant species in the country, and they’re often just as pretty as they are poisonous. Whether you’re a parent, a pet lover, or just a homeowner who would prefer to stay well in the garden, this list of dangerous plant life will help you stay alert to some of the country’s most pernicious planted predators.
If you’re looking for a beautiful bloom that promises to fill the evening air with delicious fragrances, angel’s trumpets probably seem like the perfect choice – that is, until you discover that their toxic leaves and seeds. Anyone unfortunate enough to ingest part of the plant could be subjected to disturbing hallucinations, memory loss, and even death.
Don’t let this seemingly tame moniker fool you – the castor oil plant, or Ricinus communis, once held the Guinness Book of World Records title for World’s Most Poisonous Plant. Unsurprisingly, it’s also known to be one of the most poisonous plants for children, and its leaves can be spotted in all states of Australia.
For the formidable deadly nightshade (atropa belladonna), Australia is no native breeding ground, but it has become a fruitful one. The nightshade’s brightly-coloured poisonous berries make it a dangerously intriguing spectacle for young children and rebellious gardeners alike. Ingesting just one leaf or about 20 berries can be fatal to adults, and even smaller doses are enough to kill a child.
Some of the most dangerous species are those that fly under the radar, like the golden dewdrop. Also known as duranta, the golden dewdrop is a thorny, evergreen shrub which flowers in blue, purple and white. While it has been known to make a beautiful addition to Australian gardens, parents should be wary of the significant danger it poses to young children.
Like the golden dewdrop, the nerium oleander shrub features beautiful flowers, but when looking turns to touching (or worse, swallowing), things tend to get ugly fast. Scientific testing has shown that ingesting as little as four grams of the plant’s leaf can be lethal, making it a major concern for Australian parents.
The black bean tree, or castanospermum australe, is a handsome species that thrives in the moist soil river banks of Australia’s East coast. It’s partially known for its small yet vibrant red and yellow flowers, but it’s not just a pretty face: throughout the Autumn months, the tree produces large pods filled with toxic seeds which can cause vomiting and diarrhoea.
The white cedar, or melia azedarach, may look harmless, but in truth, every part of the plant is considered poisonous. When it’s ingested, the symptoms are anything but pleasant, ranging from nausea, lethargy, and confusion to comas, seizures and death, and may begin within an hour.
Poisonous trees like the strychnine, or strychnos nux-vomica, are proof that danger often hides in plain sight. The poisonous seeds inside its small, orange fruits pose a serious threat to naive bush-wanderers, but that’s not all; poisonous bark and blossoms are also common for the species.
Although it’s not native, poison ivy has spread far and wide across the Australian landscape, touching Australians in the most unpleasant of ways. Contact with the poisonous plant is known to cause red, swollen skin, blisters, and severe itching. The good news? These conditions can be alleviated using simple kitchen ingredients like baking soda and colloidal oatmeal.
The gympie gympie plant falls within the nettle family, alongside some of Australia’s most well-known poisonous plants. Although its leaves look anything but menacing, the stinging hairs on the stems, leaves, and fruit are so potent that a pre-emptive dose of antihistamine is recommended for anyone who may find themselves in contact. If spotting this not-so-friendly species doesn’t inspire you to spring clean your garden, nothing will!
Hundreds of plants can be poisonous to household pets. Some of the most well-known Australian plants which are toxic to dogs and cats include daffodils, lilies, cannabis, sago palms, tulips, and ivy, but there are several varieties with far more serious potential consequences, including death. Plants that can kill a dog include castor oil plant, azaleas, grapes and raisins, ragwort, and wild cherry.
Removing all traces of poisonous flowers, seeds, plants and trees from your garden can require an ongoing process and consistent monitoring to prevent regrowth, but the pay-off is significant. Whether you’re a parent, a pet owner, or just a health-conscious gardener, effective garden maintenance is critical.
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