Why do some plants have poisonous fruits?

Warning - these native plants are poisonous

By Christian Glass | August 05, 2020, 3:27 p.m.

Lilies of the valley, tulips, Christmas roses - each of us has probably seen them many times and held them in our hands. However, many of these plants are poisonous and in the worst case scenario can even lead to death. myHOMEBOOK presents the most dangerous candidates.

At first glance you might not look at the colorful flowers - but they have it all - pure poison. Some specimens even look confusingly similar to edible plants. An overview of poisonous native plants and how to recognize them can be found here.

Danger: In the event of poisoning, seek medical advice as soon as possible! In the event of life-threatening symptoms such as unconsciousness or seizures, call the emergency doctor on 112. Otherwise, the poison control center's emergency number is manned 24 hours a day: 0228 19240. The poison control center's brochure provides information on what to do in an emergency.

Do not do this if you are poisoned

  • Never put your finger down the throat of the poisoned person. There is a risk of vomit getting into the lungs.
  • Do not give milk as it accelerates the absorption of toxins in the intestines.
  • Do not give salt water to induce vomiting. This can have fatal consequences.
  • Medicinal charcoal should only be administered by medical personnel.

lily of the valley

Who would have thought that! This filigree spring bloomer, which looks so innocent, has it all. The lily of the valley contains a number of different poisons that cause dizziness, visual disturbances and cramps. In the worst case, the poison can attack the heart and cause heart failure.

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Particularly perfidious: The leaves of the lily of the valley are similar to those of wild garlic, both plants often grow next to each other. In spring there are always cases of poisoning because wild garlic collectors mix up the plants.


Venus chariot, wolf weed or Würgling - this is how the monkshood was also called in earlier times. And the name speaks volumes: The plant is one of the most poisonous species in Europe. And it is also popular as an ornamental plant in German gardens. It is enough to touch it and the contact poison aconitine, which is more toxic than stichnine, causes a painful rash, which is one of the more harmless symptoms. This is followed by convulsions, cardiac arrhythmias, respiratory paralysis and heart failure. Among other things, Pope Hadrian VI. and the Roman Emperor Claudius may have been poisoned with this plant.


The poisonous plant of the year 2019 is also very popular in many German gardens. As an ornamental plant, arum feels at home in shady and damp places, for example under hedges. Flowering time is from April to May, from June the up to 40 centimeter high plant forms red or orange bright berries.

Seductive: The berries should taste pleasantly sweet. However, they are particularly poisonous. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and cramps can occur after just five minutes.


The bright yellow flowers are characteristic of this small tree. The poisonous fruits of the golden rain resemble small pea pods and are therefore often confused by children. That is why it is forbidden to plant it near children's facilities. Three to five pods or 20 seeds can be fatal. Poisonous alkaloids can also be found throughout the rest of the plant. If the poison has a stimulating effect at first, vomiting, stomach cramps and fever occur later. Eventually death from respiratory paralysis occurs.

Autumn crocus

As with the lily of the valley, the leaves of the autumn crocus resemble those of the wild garlic - and are just as poisonous. Smallest amounts of the poison colchicine are enough to cause symptoms of poisoning within a very short time. These start with a burning sensation in the mouth and throat, followed by vomiting, cramps, and symptoms of paralysis. Cardiovascular failure ultimately leads to death. In ancient times it had the name "corpse flower", which originated from its easy dissolving in water.

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This evergreen cypress plant, also known as the tree of life, is often used as a hedge plant in home gardens. But because of! The branches and cones contain an essential and very poisonous oil. Skin irritation can occur if the plant is touched. Taken orally, there is a danger to life from poisoning!


Around 1000 different species of Rhododrendon exist worldwide, most of them in Asia. There the plant is also used as medicine: in northern India, Nepal and Bhutan, a fragrant oil is obtained from the leaves of the rhododendron anthopogon, which helps against muscle and joint pain or spreads healing powers as an incense. But rhododendron can also do other things: Flowers, fruits, nectar and leaves are poisonous. The poison in the plants can differ from region to region. According to the Bonn Poison Center, for example, rhododendron-typical toxins have been detected in honey from the Turkish Black Sea coast. Grayanotoxin, as the poison is called, causes stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea. If things get bad, severe cardiac arrhythmias, breathing disorders and seizures occur.


The yew tree is also often used for the hedge in our gardens. It can be pruned well, so it can also be used as a material for plant sculptures. By the way, this evergreen conifer can reach a height of 15 meters. But yews are also poisonous! The poison taxine is found in high doses in the needles and seeds of the scarlet fruits. The pulp, on the other hand, is non-toxic. After eating the seeds or needles, you experience a dry mouth, red lips, and dilation of the pupils, followed by dizziness, cramps, and diarrhea. Liver and kidney damage can be long-term consequences if one has not previously died from cardiovascular failure.

Christmas rose

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This popular ornamental garden plant also bears the names snow rose, Christmas rose or black hellebore, some also know it as Helleborus niger. It blooms over the Christmas period until February. But Christian charity doesn't seem to be her thing: The poison cocktail made from steroid saponins, protoanemonins and bufadienolides doesn't just sound scary - it is too. The symptoms of poisoning begin with a scratchy mouth, followed by colic, diarrhea, dilated pupils and collapse. The symptoms of poisoning are similar to cardiac glycoside poisoning.


Crazy: This very popular ornamental plant was traded on the Dutch stock exchange in the 17th century until a stock market crash in 1637 ended the so-called tulip mania. Many people had speculated on the flowers and lost their fortune. Poisonous tuliposides, which occur in all parts of the plant, cause extremely itchy tulip dermatitis on contact with the skin. Anyone who comes up with the idea of ​​swallowing larger amounts must expect vomiting, abdominal pain and a drop in body temperature up to shock and respiratory failure.

Deadly nightshade

Sometimes poison is useful: the juice of the deadly nightshade, when dripped into the eyes, dilates the pupils. In earlier times a very desirable beauty effect for many women. This is probably where the Italian name of this nightshade plant comes from: Belladonna - beautiful woman. Today the atropine contained in the juice is still used in medicine. But anyone who gets too much of their plant poison will be "great". At first you are sexually aroused. This is followed by strong convulsions, hallucinations and a strong urge to move. Eventually you fall into a coma and die.


About 22 species of cyclamen exist, but only one - the European cyclamen (Cyclamen purpurascens) - is actually found in the Alps. Eating the tuber and the leaves can lead to cramps, dizziness and circulatory disorders.

Giant hogweed

The giant hogweed (Heracleum spp.) Causes blistering, reddening of the skin and itching up to severe second-degree burns when touched. The removal of the unloved garden guest may only be carried out with protective clothing. Gardening gloves are a must!

Bittersweet nightshade

Alpine tendrils, bittersweet, deer herb, heather, mouse wood, sour vine, bilberry, wild stickwort and water tendril are the names by which the bittersweet nightshade plant (Solanum dulcamara) is known. All parts of the plant contain toxic steroid alkaloids and saponins. Ingestion of the berries, leaves and stems can lead to vomiting, diarrhea and paralysis up to and including respiratory paralysis.


Blue rain (Wisteria) comes from a subfamily of the butterflies. Alkaloids are found in all parts of the plant. If swallowed, digestive disorders and circulatory problems can occur.


The boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) is very popular as a border border and garden decoration. It is often chosen as a grave plant in cemeteries. But the evergreen shrub, which can be cut nicely, is a poisonous plant. In particular, consumption of the leaves can lead to vomiting and cramps and even death.


All plant components of the common ivy (Hedera) are poisonous. The consequences of poisoning are burning in the throat, diarrhea and vomiting, cramps, increased pulse and headache. After a longer intake - which is rather unlikely due to its bitterness - shock and respiratory failure can occur. Contact dermatids, however, are common. The climbing plant is said to have medicinal properties in small quantities. Preparations made from a few ivy leaves are used for bronchial diseases, convulsive and irritable coughs.

Angel trumpet

The angel's trumpet (Brugmansia spp.) Is a popular guest on terraces with its large, hanging flowers. But just like the thorn apple, it is highly toxic. Ingesting just a few petals can be fatal in children. Consumption can lead to impaired consciousness in adults, which is why it is abused as a hallucinogenic drug.

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Red thimble

The red foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) is highly toxic. Eating just two leaves can lead to fatal poisoning, which in 2007 earned it the title of “Poisonous Plant of the Year”.

Gold lacquer

The gold lacquer (Erysimum cheiri) is considered a plant of longing and is known by countless names. The seeds in particular are poisonous and can lead to cardiac arrhythmias. Contact can cause skin irritation.


We know the healing properties of elderflower tea and know that, according to the Greeks, Romans and Germanic peoples, the good spirits should live in elderberry. But the elder is actually poisonous and causes nausea if you eat the berries in large quantities. The heavy, sweet scent of the flowers can make you dizzy. The elder was not given the name "tree of the devil" because of its poisonous properties. The name comes from Christianity, as Judas is said to have hanged himself from an elder tree after betraying Jesus.


Hydrangeas have already been stolen from gardens in northern Germany. The police suspect that the flowers are being dried and used as intoxicants. But there is an urgent warning against smoking the dried leaves and flowers. The hydrocyanic acid compounds contained can be fatal. Cardiac arrest can occur within a few minutes.


All parts of the oleander plant (Nerium oleander) contain oleandrin. It is a poisonous cardiac glycoside. Consumption leads to indigestion and heart problems. The symptoms of poisoning can affect the central nervous system and lead to death. The juice of the oleander can cause skin irritation.

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Crown of fame

The crown of fame (Gloriosa superba) contains the same toxin as the autumn crocus. The poison colchicine is considered to be mutagenic and can lead to death in less than an hour.

Thorn apple

The thorn apple (Datura stramonium), like its relative - the angel's trumpet - is very poisonous. Consumption can lead to severe hallucinations. In children, as little as 4 grams or 12 seeds lead to death.

White Germer

Weißer Germer is also known under the names hellebore, hammerwort, hemmerwurzn, Lauskraut and Lauswurz. It grows primarily in the Alps and is widespread throughout Austria. It's very poisonous. Symptoms range from vomiting, severe diarrhea to muscle cramps, hallucinations and shortness of breath. Death can occur three to twelve hours after ingestion of the poison.

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