Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Death awaits in your garden

Many people love gardening, so they have a garden full of beautiful plants, but they usually don’t know that some of those plants can kill you if you dare to eat their flowers, fruits, leaves, stem or root. Some plants can intoxicate only by holding their flowers or leaves in hand.

Adults are out of danger (except in the cases of plants that can be used as drugs), but children have the habit of putting everything they find in the mouth and the beautiful colors of the plants can make them attractive, that’s why the gardens can offer a great risk to kids. Some parents don’t have any information about the plants that exist in their garden, so they cannot give advice to their kids to stay far from the poisonous plants,  which makes the problem worse.

Down below there's a list of dangerous plants that are frequently found in gardens, and they can lead to death if eaten. Actually, all of them can be found here in São Carlos, SP, Brazil.

The first ones of the list are my favorite ones, the belladona family, the plants of that family deserve respect. They don´t contain only one poisonous substance, but a cocktail of dangerous alcaloids, like scopolamin, hyosciamin, and atropine. Scopolamin is a hallucinogen hundred of times more powerfull than LSD!, and atropine  can stop the muscles of vital organs and cause severe brain damage, hypertermia and dehydratation, it’s not necessary to say that those substances are dangerous.

Due to the hallucinogenic effect of those plants, they are used as drugs, in a great amount of cases bringing permanent brain damage to the user.
All the parts off the plants of that family are toxic, but the bigger concentration of poison is found in the berries or seeds. Here we go with the list of the deadly belladona family:

Scientific name:Atropa belladona.  
English common name:Deadly nightshade.
Portuguese common name: Beladona.

The English name of this plant says everything about it. Although atropine can be used as medicine in low concentrations, in higher concentrations it’s very dangerous, and the other alcaloids of the plant are equally dangerous. The poisons are absorbed by the skin, and because of this you can be poisoned if you hold the plant a long time. The berries are sweet, then if a child eat one, it will like and eat a lot of them, unfortunately five berries is sufficient to send a people to the graveyard.

A curious fact about this plant is that it is hazardous to humans, but it’s harmless to some animals like rabbits, because of that some people in ancient Europe died by eating rabbits contamined with beladona poisons.

Scientific name: Datura sp(inoxia, metel,stramonium).
English common name: Jimson weed, devil's apple, devil's trumpet.
Portuguese common  name:Cartucheira, estramônio.

This plant got famous in the 60's decade because of the books of Carlos

Castaneda, in which he described the use of this plant in xamanic rituals. After that, many people tried to use datura as a drug, but even  drug users that had the habit of taking heavy hallucinogens like mushrooms or LSD described the datura experience as traumatic scary and  very "real". If the person don´t die because of the deadly substances of the plant, the hallucinogen effect can persist for days, with high possibility of causing permanent brain damage.
There's an Indian tribe in North America who uses a drink prepared with datura in their rite of passage. This drink is called wysoccan, and the objective of drinking it is forget about the child life to ingress in the adult life, but the brain effect is very strong, making some of them to forget about their identity or even how to speak!

Scientific name:Brugmansia suavelleons.
English common name:Angel's trumpet.
Portuguese common name: Trombeta.

This one is the "cousin" of datura, and the last member of beladona family. The effects of the plants in body are almost the same. Datura is called devil's trumpet because the flowers are erect, growing from the " depts of hell", and the brugmansia is called angel's trumpet because the flowers are pendent, growing from the "upper sky". The flowers of this plant can be pink, yellow or white; all of them are equally poisonous.

The next plants don't have cool curiosity about them like the beladona family, but are very dangerous to.    
Scientific name:Ricinus comunnis.
English common name:Castor Beans.
Portuguese common name: Mamona.

This one is not cultivated in gardens, but grows easily in almost every place, because of this is comonly found in gardens. It contains a toxic substance called ricine, which cause nausea, inner bleeding (homorrhage), and diarrhea, and can lead to death due to renal and circulatory failure.

All the parts of the plant contains ricine in a small concentration, but the fruits and the seed have a big concentration of the substance, three seeds are sufficient to kill a people.
When he was a kid, my uncle ate half of a seed of this plant, and almost died.

Scientific name: Dieffenbachia seguine.
English common name: Dumb-cane.
Portuguese common name: Comigo ninguém pode.

The leaves of this plant contains the calcium oxalate, a substance that causes severe inflammation in the throat, which blocks the breathing, causing death in the worst cases.

Scientific name: Jatropha curcas.
English common name:---------.
Portuguese common name:Pinhão Bravo.

This one is really dangerous, the leaves and the fruits of this plant contains curcin, a substance that causes nausea, diarrhea and cardiac arrhythmia, complications can lead to  cardiac stop. The poison of this plant is used by some Indian tribes to make their arrows more deadly.

Scientific name:Thevetia peruviana.
English commmon name:-----------.

Portuguese common name:Chapéu de napoleão.

All the parts of this plant are toxic, but almost all of poisoning cases are caused by the fruits, when they are confused with edible nuts, principally by children. The plant have a mix of toxins that affects the heart, and can cause death by cardiac stop. This one is very common in São Carlos; if you all readers see the fruits of this small tree, don't try to eat them.

I hope this post contributes to help people protect themselves and specially their children.

by Daniel Yoshio Akamatsu

Barone English's student
level 3
Material Engineering student at UFSCar

Note: This text is result of Barone English’s methodology. Different writing techniques are developed every unit. Besides that, the students make presentations about the same theme, based on their researches.


(to) dare (verb): if you dare to do something, you are not afraid to do it, even though it may be dangerous or shocking or may cause trouble for you;
to await (verb): if something awaits you, it will happen to you: Well, I wonder what surprises await us today;
hazardous (adjective): dangerous, especially to people’s health or safety;
edible (adjective): food that is edible is safe or good enough to eat.

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