So green, yet so dangerous
So green, yet so dangerous
Dangerous plants in the wild that should not be touched
If you are one of those people who can’t wait for warm weather because you want to spend more time outdoors, enjoying the greenery, picking mushrooms, medicinal and edible plants and fruits, then Croatia is the perfect place for you.
While you are making plans and thinking of healthy recipes to prepare, be careful before you start gathering the plants you need. You should be thoroughly knowledgeable, because some mistakes may cause discomfort, while others may prove fatal.
You may believe that you will recognise a plant by its description or photograph, but this is exactly the source of the risk, because you can easily get confused. So beware of the following plants:
A common source of confusion is autumn crocus, one of the deadliest herbaceous plants in Croatia, because it resembles the edible wild garlic, which is used as a natural antibiotic.
The entire plant is poisonous, especially the seeds and bulb.
The henbane bell is a herbaceous plant that grows in rocky beech forests, humid slopes and humus-rich soil. In medieval times, it was used for magic rituals and making love potions.
It has distinct dark green leaves, greenish-yellow flowers arranged in a round inflorescence, and blue fruits. Although all of its parts are poisonous, especially the fruit, it is used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes.
Henbane is a herbaceous plant that was used in medieval times for sedation and preparing love potions, while today it aids in the treatment of asthma. It has a recognisable woolly stem, long dark green leaves, and yellow and purple flowers. It has a bad odour, and grows like a weed in dry and sunny places alongside roads, in fields and neglected land. All of its parts are poisonous!
Be careful not to pick fool’s parsley, because it can easily be confused with parsley, caraway or dill. It grows on meadows, in fields and along streams, and it is characterised by a tall stem, feathery leaves, and small white flowers arranged in an inflorescence. Careful, fool’s parsley is entirely poisonous!
One of the most well-known hemiparasitic shrubs that grows in the treetops of various deciduous and evergreen trees is mistletoe. It has distinct round, white or yellowish berries that are poisonous, but the level of toxicity depends on the type of tree it grows on. On the other hand, like any poison, this plant can also be very beneficial in small doses.
Although it is often used as an ornamental plant in gardens and parks, keep in mind that the beautiful purple-flowered monkshood is considered one of the most poisonous plants in Croatia.
Mezereum is a deciduous shrub that belongs to the protected and endangered plant group of Croatian flora. It is characterised by elongated leaves arranged in a spiral and pink flowers with a lovely scent, and is often grown as an ornamental plant. It grows on fertile, loose soils rich in lime and humus. Its fruits are its most poisonous part, and some compounds it contains are even carcinogenic.
Every part of this beautiful Mediterranean shrub is extremely poisonous, so even accidental inhalation of smoke from a burning oleander bush can cause problems.
Avoiding cowbane requires great caution. This perennial plant grows near streams and lakes, in wet and marshy areas. It has a bulb-like, hollow rhizome, a bare ridged stem, feathery leaves, and white flowers clustered in umbels. The entire plant is poisonous, especially its underground sections that can easily be confused with parsnip and parsley root. Remember, a single cowbane sprout can kill an adult person!
Castor bean is a shrub with starfish-shaped leaves and reddish flowers clustered in an inflorescence. All of it is poisonous, especially the seeds, which contain a toxin called ricin, which can be even more dangerous than snake venom. However, with proper processing, a very beneficial oil can be extracted from the seeds and used for various medicinal purposes.
Another beautiful evergreen shrub that draws attention with its soft, dark green needles and bright red seeds is the common yew. Its seeds pose a great danger as they are very poisonous. You can recognise it by a hard wood with a reddish-brown bark, and soft needles that are arranged in cones, which is why it often gets mistaken for a spruce.
The principle “medicinal, but deadly” applies here as well. Although all of its parts are poisonous, its leaves and root are used for medicinal purposes.
The toxicity of hemlock has been well-known since ancient times. Even the ancient Greeks and Romans used it to murder people, and it is believed that the great philosopher Socrates was poisoned with this plant. It is characterised by a strong, long, hollow stem with blueish and reddish spots, leaves divided into sections, and white flowers arranged in an inflorescence. It grows in wet places, by the side of the road, near inhabited places and hedges, and creates a large amount of fruit, which is why it spreads around easily.
Enjoy nature and its bounty, but be careful with what you pick and eat to avoid turning a lovely trip into a disaster.
Therefore, if you have some doubts about a plant, seek expert advice or, even better, steer clear! Should you run into trouble and you mistake a poisonous plant for an edible one, induce vomiting and seek medical help as soon as possible.