Stop and Smell the Roses… NO WAIT NOT THOSE ROSES.
25–30% of the planet is covered in plants, trees, and forests (not to mention bountiful and aromatic interior gardens and botanic displays). But watch what you’re touching, smelling, or eating, because many of nature’s plants, from the most abundant to the most beautiful, could kill you.
A young transgender woman died in Chicago this week after ingesting seeds from the pong pong plant—a toxic tree native of Asia–that she bought online for just $5.30 plus shipping.
According to the victim Lucia Anderson’s mother, the death was “slow, and it was painful,” and that she was unaware of her daughter’s suicidal thoughts until it was too late.
A popular tool for suicide and murder in countries like India, the seeds of the pong pong contain high levels of cerberin, a powerful toxin that disrupts the heartbeat and is often difficult to detect in autopsies. While a known killer, the tree also has practical uses: it’s used as a shrubbery to decorate yards and gardens in some countries, and its fruit has been used in making bioinsecticides and even deodorant.
Yet while many of us love Earth’s flora, and indeed, couldn’t live without it, hidden among our planet’s lush greenery are natural killers. While many plants develop thorns, spines, and prickles as a defense mechanism against predators, more often than not, poison is the name of the game.