Trivia: 4 Flowers You Don't Want in your Gift Basket

Columbia, SC(Zone 7b)

Obviously by a non-gardener!

from the Mental Floss Trivia newsletter, home of the Trivia Fact Generator

4 Flowers You Don't Want in your Gift Basket

By Stacy Conradt

Oleander. Whatever element of surprise this deadly beauty had was probably ruined when Janet Fitch's 1999 novel White Oleander got big: the mom in the story killed her womanizing boyfriend by smearing a concoction that included oleander sap all over his stuff. I know, you're skeptical: could that really kill someone? The answer: yep. Small amounts can be lethal or nearly lethal for adults, and you definitely want to keep kids and pets away from it. It's pretty uncommon around these parts though: fewer than 1,000 cases of oleander poisoning are reported in the U.S. every year. In places like Sri Lanka, though, suicide by oleander seed is becoming way too common. The pretty plant grows wild by the roadside and people have started taking it for trivial reasons because it's so easy to get. One doctor reported that a teenage girl took a seed because her mother refused to take her shopping.

Zantedeschia. If you think this looks like a Calla lily, that's 'cause it is. Every part of this plant is toxic, but only if ingested - so if you're planning on having them in your wedding bouquet or something, don't worry. Touching the stem isn't going to kill you. If you take it home as a post-wedding snack, that's when you're in trouble: eating the Zantedeschia species has been the death of both livestock and children; symptoms include swelling of the mouth and throat, acute vomiting and diarrhea.

Hellebore. There's a good reason it pops up when authors need to make witches concoct potions and powders: it has been known for its toxic properties since ancient times. At least, "black" hellebore (aka Christmas Rose) has been - it causes everything from vertigo and thirst to swelling of the throat and cardiac arrest. But it's also used in some medicines; some historians think that Alexander the Great was taking medicine with hellebore in it and may have accidentally overdosed on it. It was also used in the First Sacred War between the Amphictyonic League of Delphi and the City of Kirrha - Solon of Athens added a bunch of hellebore to Kirrha's water supply and supposedly the city was so sick with diarrhea that they couldn't fight back when Solon's troops invaded.

Fool's Parsley is related to poison hemlock. If you're trying to off someone, though, it would be pretty silly to use Fool's Parsley: it's easily detected. It can inflame the eyelids and makes the stomach lining very red and irritated. But like hellebore, it has its good side, too: a really diluted form of the plant can help stop seizures in little kids.

Thumbnail by pyromomma
Grantsboro, NC(Zone 8b)

I don't want thistle. Good article.

Columbia, SC(Zone 7b)

or that obnoxious dewberry.

Raleigh, NC

Just in case anyone out there wants to "off" me--just smear me with Poison Ivy. Makes me so irritable I'll just off myself to not have to go through the misery!

Ok, on a serious note, and before anyone complains that I'm not taking self-death seriously, it is a little scary to think of something as poisonous as Oleander being so many places. I've always known it was poisonous, but didn' t realize it was THAT poisonous. Think how many times you've been driving down the highway and seen it purposefully planted in the median? Not a good plant to have around anyone suffering from any mental disability, that's for sure. And to think it was all over our yard, growing up.....Guess my family figured all the kids and pets were somewhat mentally stable.....(if only they knew!!!).

Lexington, SC(Zone 8a)

The castor bean plant now makes my list. I was reading how dangerous the seeds are (ricin), and it was kinda scary to think I'd just left them lying around the house for so long.

Grantsboro, NC(Zone 8b)

Keonikale, why do you think they are so dangerous? If you are not gonna boil them down to make Resin power you shouldn't have any problems. They detour animals/deer etc and are very pretty to me. I would not dare try to do things harmful with them.


Lexington, SC(Zone 8a)

I read a few places that said ingesting the seed (like a pet) could kill them. We were probably fortunate our cats or dog never found any of them.

Grantsboro, NC(Zone 8b)

Dogs and cats don't eat them as they shy away from them. Have you ever seen one eat a poinsetia? They will kill them if they ingest them.


Huntersville, NC

ok Ive got to ask . . .
with Hellebore - can it affect you if you touch it without wearing gloves?

and yes my cat knows to leave it, lily of the valley and anything else toxic - alone!
and they are called: dumb animals . . .?? hmmmmm.

Grantsboro, NC(Zone 8b)

Directions say not to touch them but I do and pull my seeds out also. I Make sure I don't have open cuts on my hands and wash them after I quit fooling with the plant.

Kure Beach, NC(Zone 9a)

I've touched, rubbed on, (everything but rolled in) all of the above and have never had a problem. Same with brugmansias and daturas (also considered poisonous).
Exception - poison ivy - my forearms swelled up when I developed an allergy to it. I'm slathering on calomine lotion as we speak...
It all depends on the person with many of these. You really can't generalize.

Bluffton, SC(Zone 9a)

Brugmansias and daturas are considered poisonous because they are hallucinogenic. I think if you over do it those two will kill you by liver failure. A year or two ago someone found a whole list of plants that can get you stoned, they're all listed as poisonous but it depends on your definition. To my surprise I grow at least five "poisonous" plants. LOL> Hopefully some hippies don't figure that out.

Grantsboro, NC(Zone 8b)

Corehii that is to funny , I also have lots of plants considered poisonis but am not about to eat or waller thru them.

Johns Island, SC

Most Euphorbias are also listed as poisonous plants. Over the eons, most animals have developed instincts to avoid these plants. The other day I went out and found a newly planted Euphorbia eaten to the ground. Bambi prints all around it. I'm not basically a mean person, but I have to admit after I got over the normal gardener's reaction to such a thing, I started to really enjoy it. Nature at it's best.Revenge is sweet! I've got maybe 25-30 Euphorbias (E. (?), "Diamond Frost") planted out there, and not one has been touched since. Mother Nature teaches harsh lessons! "It's not nice to mess with Mother Nature..."

Columbia, SC(Zone 7b)

Some Euphorbs can also actually burn you with their sap. I love them, but remind myself to wear gloves and be very careful not to brush my eyes or nose/mouth while trimming them (adding Hellebores to that list, too)

Excellent article here.
"How Dangerous are Euphorbias? (And Others in the Family Euphorbiaceae)"
BTW, the 2 euphorbs that I have I keep in the front year away from my goofy yellow lab, Abby. She is a plant taster, she thinks she is a cow. She has been laughed out of the Doggie Club because she loves our cats and she sleeps with them.

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