What are the Different Types of Poisonous Flowers?

B. Schreiber

There are many different types of poisonous flowers, whether they are grown as indoor or outdoor ornaments or appear as weeds and wildflowers. Some examples include foxglove, hemlock, and pokeweed. Identifying poisonous flowers is frequently a concern of parents and pet owners, and may influence the choice of plants they keep inside and outside of the home. Often animals instinctively avoid poisonous flowering plants because of their usually bitter scent. Young children, however, may ingest poisonous flowers unknowingly. Possible symptoms of poisoning include nausea, vomiting, and irregular heartbeat.

Children and pets can be sickened by any part of a poinsettia.
Children and pets can be sickened by any part of a poinsettia.

Foxglove is one example of a poisonous flower that is often planted in ornamental gardens. While prized for its tall, flower-bearing central stalks, all parts of the plant can cause severe sickness and possibly death if eaten. The flowers and leaves of some varieties of the genus rhododendron can also result in extreme discomfort if they are eaten. In fact, the honey made from rhododendrons may be enough to make a person ill. Azaleas, which are related to rhododendrons, are also poisonous if eaten.

Oleanders are beautiful but toxic.
Oleanders are beautiful but toxic.

Wild poisonous flowers include hemlock, or poison hemlock, all parts of which can cause illness or death. Similar in appearance to poison hemlock, the water hemlock grows poisonous tubers that some have mistaken as being edible. Another very poisonous wildflower is jimsonweed, which can grow up to 5 feet (1.5 m) tall and has toothed leaves and white trumpet-like flowers. The plant contains enough poison to kill an adult human. Wild poisonous flowers of the genus solanum include deadly nightshade, also known as belladonna, and bittersweet nightshade.

Some wild flowering plants may be attractive to children because of their colorful but poisonous berries. One such example is pokeweed, a tall plant that can be recognized by its bright red or purple stalk. After flowering, the plant bears dark purple berries that grow in grape-like clusters but are very toxic if eaten. While the entire plant is also poisonous, parents might wish to uproot it before the potentially tempting berries appear. Other flowering plants that produce poisonous berries are the blue cohosh and the plants known collectively as baneberry.

A few flowering plants associated with the Christmas holidays can also be toxic if eaten. The holly leaves used to decorate home interiors are not in themselves poisonous, but the attached red berries can cause nausea if eaten and possibly worse symptoms. The mistletoe plant used to celebrate New Year's Eve is also poisonous. While perhaps not as poisonous as some of its near relatives, all parts of the poinsettia plant could cause nausea or vomiting in children and pets.

All parts of poison hemlock can cause illness or death.
All parts of poison hemlock can cause illness or death.

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Discussion Comments


@pleonasm - It's strange that there are so many poisonous flowers and berries, because you wouldn't think there was any advantage for the plant in killing a creature that had already eaten it.

But I guess it's an accident in evolution, because often the same flowers and berries that are deadly to humans aren't at all dangerous to other animals or birds. And sometimes there are plants poisonous to animals like cats that are fine for us to eat.


@KoiwiGal - Actually, they used to use it as a weight loss aid, because lowered appetite is one of the symptoms of foxglove poisoning. Of course, seizures and vomiting and eventually death are also symptoms of it, so it's not exactly something that I would recommend.

It makes me nervous to even have it in the garden to be honest, because as poisonous flowers go it's quite attractive and I'm not sure that it's well known to be poisonous like poinsettias and oleanders seem to be.

It seems a shame because there are so many edible plants out there, but I have a strict policy of teaching children to never, ever eat anything from the garden unless they planted it there or an adult they trust says that it is safe. There are too many dangerous mushrooms and flowers and berries to risk it.


The reason that foxglove is so dangerous is because it can actually be used as a powerful heart medication. It will speed up the heart in cases of certain types of heart failure and is often used by the medical community for this (although, of course, they carefully isolate and measure the compound responsible for the effects).

I believe that they used to use it for similar purposes back in the old days, but it was so difficult to get the dosage right that it could just as often lead to death as it could to helping the patient.

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