Plants are a very important part of nature. Plants release oxygen into the air so that we can breathe. Plants provide food for animals and people. Plants provide protection and housing for some animals. We use plants for many different kinds of medicine and to make things we use in our everyday life; things like paper, baskets, tires, and fabric for the clothes we wear.
Not all plants are good for us, though. Some plants are poisonous. Sometimes the poison in plants will cause us to have a stomach ache or give us a rash that makes us itch. But there are several poisonous plants that can kill us…quickly.
What makes a plant poisonous
Most poisonous plants have cyanide (a poisonous chemical) or oxalates (crystals of oxalic acid) in them. Oxalic acid is a very poisonous chemical. Other poisonous plants have fungus or other chemicals in them to make them toxic (poison).
Not the whole plant…just part of it
Apple trees, peach trees, apricot trees, avocado trees and even tomato plants give us delicious things to eat. But the leaves of these plants have cyanide in them. Even the seeds of apples have cyanide in them, so don’t swallow them.
Potatoes are very good for you. Mashed potatoes…French fries…baked potatoes…any kind of potatoes are yummy! Don’t ever try to eat the tops of a potato (the green part that grows on top of the ground) OR a green potato. The tops of potato plants and green skin or flesh on a potato have solanine in them. Solanine is a poison substance in potato tops and unripe potatoes. It can kill you very quickly if you eat it.
Rhubarb leaves are also very poisonous. NEVER eat them…only eat the stalks—the red part.
Watch out for these plants
Flowers are pretty to look at and smell. There are even several kinds of flowers that can be eaten or used to make medicine. But not all flowers are safe—many can make us very sick or even kill us if we eat them or even put them in our mouths. That is why it is VERY important to only LOOK, but not touch these plants:
- Elephant Ear Burning – swelling and pain in your mouth and throat
- Daffodil & Hyacinths – Vomiting and diarrhea and death
- Rosary Pea/Castor Beas – VERY poisonous—just one taste can kill you
- Larkspur – Nervous and sad, vomiting
- Lily-of-the-valley – Nervous, confused, affects your heart beat, and death
- Wisteria – Stomach ache
- Azaleas – Breathing trouble, vomiting, confusion, coma, death
- Acorns/Oak leaves – Kidney problems
- Black Locust – Dizziness, vomiting
- Mistletoe – The berries are VERY poisonous and will kill you quickly
- Hemlock – Painful stomach aches, vomiting and death
- Snow on the Mountain – Causes cancer
- Poppy – Hallucinations, confusion, vomiting, addiction, death
- Poison oak, ivy, sumac – Rash, itching, swelling
These are not the only poisonous plants, so remember…unless your parents tell you something is safe to eat, DON’T EAT IT!
What to do
If you accidentally eat a poisonous plant—or even put it in your mouth—tell your parents, teacher or an adult you trust IMMEDIATELY and get to the doctor as fast as you can.
Have your parents help you identify all the plants in your yard. Find out which ones are poisonous so you will know which ones to be extra-careful around.
Tell your friends and family about the plants we eat that have poisonous leaves or seeds so they can be extra-careful, too.
Read more about Plant Facts for Kids