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.
These are the deadliest plants on the face of the Earth.
Also called the “suicide tree,” the Cerbera odollam, native to India and southern Asia, is a very lethal plant species. The main toxin at work in the tree is cerberin, which effectively disrupts the heartbeat and often leads to death. Given the difficulty detecting cerebin in autopsies, the pong pong has long been used in homicides and suicides, especially in India.
The Solanaceae family of flowering plants, collectively known as nightshades, are varied and common and exist on every continent except for Antarctica.
While many species contain toxins, one of the most deadly is the Atropa belladonna or deadly nightshade. Symptoms include hallucinations, convulsions, coma, and death. Harmful varieties of nightshade have long been used as a poison, while other common and harmless species and genera include tomatoes, eggplants, and bell peppers.