Poisonous Plants

As we move on into the twenty first century, the needs of the 1800’s are definitely a thing of the past. We may pick the odd berry as we wander though the woods, but we no longer have to dig up roots or grab a hand full of leaves of the wildflowers to make a salad. We have the super markets.

We travel through the fields and the forests, from the coastal waters to the mountain alpine areas in search of those plants that we may admire, but we have to be wary off.
Poisom Hemlock
Foxglove, digitalis.

There are a number of plants that have become household names due to the storrytellers of mysteries and some of the crimes that have been commited. Two of these are well known, poison hemlock and digitalis, known in the gardening circles as foxglove. Both having been used in many cases of poisoning in fact and fiction.


Besides those that are well kmown and carry the name poison, one also lets you know it is not one for the table, death Camas. Unlike its relatives the blue cammasies that have eatable bulbs. Death Cames, above, is still a good looking flower however.


False Hellebore also known as Corn Lily.

False hellebore which is a high elevation plant, and all parts are poisonous. with the roots having more toxins than the upper parts of the plant. The young plant with the swirling leaves is very attractive with the green flowers being rather non descript although it has great numbers of flowers on long tresses.

We have learned from the past not to put this or that into our mouths, but children are children and still like to eat that berry or open that seed pod, they look like peas that mam was splitting open. Broome, on the left and its seed pods in the centre, is a very invasive european introduction and a yellow lupines shrub on the right, are two plants that carry their seeds in pods.

The family of lupines carry a large number of blue to purple flowers in the well known spike formation. They vary from six inches to three feet of more in height.
All parts of all larkspur species are poisonous, but new growth and the seeds contain the highest concentrations of toxic substances.
Datura stramonium, common names include Devils weed, Devils cucumber, is a leafy herb spreading up to six feet. The huge white flowers are trumpet shaped and face upwards, opening mainly at night. Most parts of the plant contain toxins and it has a history of causing delirious states and poisoning to those that do not know about this plant.
The common shrubby plant, Spreading Dogbane, Apocynum androsaemifolium, enjoys the dry areas and is often found along roadsides and gravelled areas. The thin reddish stems grow to three feet with clusters of bell shaped flowers. When the stems are broken they produce a latex like milk which deters animals from feeding on the plant.
Western Bog Laurel, Kalmia microphylla spp. occidentalis, enjoys the higher elevations and boggy areas, flowering soon after the snows melt. Having a similarity to the red mountain heather and growing amongst it, it can easily be missed if you are not looking closely for it. The plant has caused poisoning in many animals with sheep the most suscepticle. This plant should be considered toxic throughout its entire range
Showy Locoweed, Oxytropis splendens, here on the left and Yellow flowering Locoweed, Oxytropis monticola, are only two of the locoweeds throughout North America. There is a wide variety of colors in Locoweeds from purples to blue and yellow and whites. They are found in the foothills and semi arid areas. Locoweeds are poisonous at all stages of growth and dangerous at all times even when dried. All of the plant is toxic.
The Horse-chestnut tree, Aesculus hippocastanum, is a beautiful tree when in full flower. It is an introduced tree mainly because of its beauty and as a shade tree. Although beautiful, it has poisoned many animals, causing sickness and death. All parts of the tree, from the bark to the flowers, contain esculin, which is poisonous.

Western Bleeding-heart, Dicentra formosa, is a woodland flower of great beauty, hence the name Formosa, meaning beautiful. Its a native plant to north America found in rich humus soils on the forest floor. The plant contains toxics including protopine along with others alkaloides.

European Nightshade, Solanum dulcamara, has a variety of common names including Poisonberry and Poisonflower besides other that have Nightshade added to it, a well known name amongst poisonous plants. The fruit is a bright red and although birds find it edible, it is poisonous to humans and livestock. Its foliage is also poisonous. This introduction from Europe is a climbing woody vine along hedgerows with clusters of purple and yellow flowers along its trailing and clinging branches.
The red berries give us the common name of Sambucus racemosa, Red Elderberry. The large bunches of fruits makes for an amazing site when found in ideal conditions which includes a cool climate. These berries are not palatable to humans and may be slightly poisonous. It contains an alkaloid that can cause many sicknesses, nausea and vomiting. The stem contains small amounts, but the roots have been known to cause death to hogs.