Image Source: Flickr. By: Oceandesetoiles

Did you know that the Peace Lily is actually toxic; that corn was responsible for a nasty illness which affected 3 million Americans in the early 20th century; and that although beautiful, the Water Hyacinth is actually the world’s worst aquatic weed?

If not, then there’s a book you should definitely check out. Last week, I picked up a new book, called Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities, by Amy Stewart. This book teaches the reader about more than 60 plants that are deadly, illegal, painful, offensive, dangerous, intoxicating, or destructive. These are plants that can be found around the globe, in the wild, planted in your backyard, or even sitting in your home—perhaps even on your dinner plate!

Some of the plants mentioned are already known to be harmful in some way, such as Deadly Nightshade, Poison Hemlock, or the extremely hot Habanero Chile. However, it may surprise you to learn that:

All parts of Lilies are toxic to cats and can cause kidney failure and death within 48 hours.

Touching a Tulip bulb can bring on a number of problems, ranging from skin irritation to respiratory trouble; while eating them can bring on vomiting, weakness, and also breathing trouble.

Honey made from Azalea or Rhododendron plants can be toxic; eating any part of the plant can cause extreme weakness, dizziness, vomiting and heart problems.

Consuming potatoes can kill you—if their skin has turned green. They can also cause burning, gastrointestinal symptoms and comas.

Ficus and Rubber Trees can give you a nasty allergy attack, due to the latex they contain. One woman even suffered anaphylactic shock, but her symptoms were removed after the Ficus was removed from her home.

Oh, and if you’re wondering what’s so dangerous about corn: eating too much of it (and not much of any other food) can lead to a niacin deficiency, known as Pellagra. The pattern of Pellagra follows 4 symptoms, known as the 4 D’s: dermatitis, dementia, diarrhea, and death. The illness killed at least 100,000 Americans in the early 20th century and even more around the world since the 1730s. Ah, but don’t worry, this vegetable is perfectly safe and healthy to eat today—provided you eat it along with other foods.

If you are curious about what other plants may be surprisingly harmful to you or your animal friends, I highly suggest picking up a copy of this book. Who knows, one day it could mean the difference between life and death.

By Heidi Marshall