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When perusing the produce section of the grocery store, have you ever wondered how our brave ancestors were able to determine what plants were edible or deadly?


Take Elderberries, for instance. They are packed with nutrients like vitamin C and also rich in vitamin B6. But not all berries are created equal.

Pokeweed berries, Yew berries, and Holly berries are just some examples of the kinds of berries that are not our friends.

Many of these have toxic compounds that can lead to nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramps when ingested. At worst, eating them can kill you.

Beware of beautiful plants the next time you're out in the wild. Even touching them could be a brush with death.

Curious to be educated about plant life, Redditor RKola asked:

"Botanists of reddit, what are the scariest plants in the world?"

Not Edible

They may look good enough to eat, but some of these plants are a one-way ticket to the after life.

Tangena

"This plant has killed an estimated 100,000 people on Madagascar: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tangena?wprov=sfti1"

Beardor

How About Them Apples?

"Manchineels ('Beach Apples') look like small apples but eating them will give you a terrible time. Even worse the sap is really toxic and if you stand near a machineel during rain just a small drop of the sap can immediately cause burnlike blisters on the skin. Some people say that the sap is so toxic that it even destroys car paint. If you get sap on the hand and then in a moment of temporary dumbness touch your eyes, you could get blind.

The Spanish call them 'Manzanilla de la muerte"'which translates to little apple of death, although no deaths in modern times caused by Machineels are known."

TheBassMeister

Toxic Symptoms

"Water hemlock (Cicuta) is fairly common in North America and very toxic. It can be fatal when even small amounts are ingested and resembles other non-toxic plants that are edible. Even just touching your lips or skin to the plant has been fatal for children. It causes swelling in the brain, blood coagulation problems, tremors, seizures, kidney failure among other issues. Death is usually caused by respiratory arrest and/or ventricular fibrillation."

MizElaneous

Hogweed Horrors

Hogweed is a biennial or perennial herb in the carrot family. But that doesn't mean you can chomp on them.

Photosensitive For Life

"Giant hogweed was the first that comes to mind for me also. I was told about it by a supervisor last year. She basically told me I probably won't run into it because it's pretty rare in our region, but that it could make your skin photosensitive for life. The possibility of lifelong consequences from simply brushing against a plant scared the sh*t out of me."

cambium7

Enflamed Arms

"Oooooh, pushkey is what we call it in Alaska. Its f'king everywhere. I didnt realize the photosensitivity just knew it was a pain in the a**. I was working as a groundskeep at a rec camp and I weedwacked the hell out of a quartermile portion of road, no arm protection. Arms burned like hell."

ravendarklord76

Never Know What You're Gonna Get

"The entire apiaceae family. It's like forager roulette: you either get wild carrot or poison hemlock. Such is the reason I don't f'k with these plants in the wild."

TheRainbowWillow

Beware Of Foraging

If you're not equipped with the knowledge of looking for provisions that won't kill you, you''re better off staying home.

Brush With death

"I remember playing with the PNW U.S. native water hemlock flowers as a child. I had no idea how close I was to accidentally killing myself. I always washed my hands before going inside. I'm glad you are mentioning this. I know a lot of people getting into foraging who are delighted to learn about our edible umbels, but I bring them back down to Earth by showing them comparison pictures and describing how the deadly ones can kill you."

princessbubbbles

Beware Of The Gympie-Gympie

"The mother trucking Gympie-Gympie plant. The pain can last for MONTHS, I've heard of people and animals killing themselves to escape the pain. Being caught in a slammed car door would be merciful compared to the level of pain this bloody plant inflicts."

"How can it be so painful? The leaves are covered in silica hairs, touching the leaf can break off the tip of these hairs that then settle into the skin and become basically a 'self-injecting hypodermic needle' full of what's essentially venom."

"Unfun fact, Gympie-Gympie leaves can still sting when they're off the plant and technically dead. People have been stung by leaves in botanical collections."

PatienceFar1140

"Satan's Cereal"

"The Gympie-gympie terrifies me. There was one story of a poor soldier relieving his secondary port in the bush and reached for a leaf to wipe. Cue the gympie covering his chute with what can only be described as Satan's cereal. The pain can last month's or even years if encountered that severely."

schofield101

A little Google image research of what some of these botanical killers look like might do you some good.

Because you never know when you'll be stranded in the wild and feel the hunger pains coming on while you have no Cliff Bar on your person.

But perhaps these botanists have failed to mention the most terrifying plant of them all.

Just remember what Little Shop of Horrors has taught us: whatever you do, "don't feed the plants."

steve martin GIF by Coolidge Corner Theatre Giphy

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