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The typographic

to of alluringly poisonous


Book design & illustrations Š Anna Badger 2015

Aconitum Brugmansia Cerbera odollam Digitalis Euonymus europaeus Festuca arundinacea Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) Hedera Ilex aquifolium Jacobaea vulgaris Kalmia latifolia Laburnum Menispermum Narcissus Oenanthe Phytolacca americana Quercus Ricinus communis Sanguinaria canadensis Taxus baccata Urtica ferox Veratrum (False hellebore) Wislizenia refracta Xanthium Yellow jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) Zantedeschia

Aconitum aka Aconite, Monkshood, Wolf ’s bane, Leopard’s bane, Devil’s helmet or Blue rocket

DEADLY Aconitum grows in mountainous meadow areas and is perhaps one of the most poisonous plants to be listed within this alphabet. It has traditionally been used for hunting, usually used as arrow poison for hunting bears, wolfs and whales. Toxins extracted from the plant were historically used to kill wolves, giving reason for the name wolf’s bane. As well as being deadly poisonous to animals, it is lethal to humans; consumption would cause almost instant poisoning, with symptoms appearing not later than an hour afterwards. Symptoms of the poison are gastrointestinal followed by a sensation of burning, tingling, and numbness in the mouth and face, and of burning in the abdomen. Death will occur within two to six hours after consumption.

BEAUTIFUL Despite it’s deadly poisonous capabilities, aconitum has been historically used in Chinese, Japanese and Indian traditional medicines. It is used in homeopathic remedies thought to strengthen adrenals and kidneys. It is also believed to have anti-inflammatory effects, relieve pain, prevent heart fibrillations and even reduce the ageing process; demonstrating why people are willing to risk being treated with aconitum despite it’s poisonous properties.

Brugmansia aka Angel’s Trumpets

DEADLY The name angel’s trumpet quite literally derives from the appearance of the plants large fragrant flower. All parts of Brugmansia are poisonous in particular the seeds and leaves. Ingesting the plant can cause muscle paralysis, confusion, visual and auditory hallucinations and even lead to death. The hallucinogenic effects of Brugmansia have been described as “terrifying rather than pleasurable”.

BEAUTIFUL Important alkaloids within the plant have been discovered to be beneficial for their anaesthetic, anti-asthmatic and narcotic properties to name just a few. Traditionally South American indigenous cultures have used Brugmansia in religious or spiritual ceremonies and medicine.

Cerbera odollam aka Suicide tree, Ping-pong, and Othalanga

DEADLY Native to India and other parts of Southern Asia, it grows wild in coastal swamps and marshy areas. It’s common name ‘Suicide tree’ hints at its potently poisonous properties capable with interfering with the heart beat. Due to its difficulty to detect in autopsy, the plant has often been used in homicides and suicides in India. In Madagascar the plant has historically been used in poison rituals responsible for the death of 2% of the population.

BEAUTIFUL The fruits are used in the manufacture of deodorants and there are currently investigations into the possibility of converting the seeds into biodiesel.

Digitalis aka Foxglove, Dead man’s bells, Witche’s gloves

DEADLY Digitalis produce a tubular flower which tend to be purple, pint, white and yellow in appearance, with striking speckling patterns, which make them commonly grown for their beautiful features. Ingestion may result in gastrointestinal disorders as well as sometimes causing jaundice, tremors, seizures and even death.

BEAUTIFUL A group of medicines can be extracted from digitalis called Digitalin. These are used in the treatment of heart conditions, being used to regulate heart rate and treat heart failure.

Euonymus europaeus aka Spindle ‘Red Cascade’, fusoria, fusanum, ananbeam, shemshad rasmi

DEADLY Euonymus europaeus is popularly grown as an ornamental plant due to its brightly coloured exterior but deceivingly its bright rose pink fruit is deadly poisonous. Ingesting the fruit can cause severe discomfort and may even lead to death. Its name derives from the Greek ‘eu’ meaning ‘good’ and ‘onama’ meaning ‘name’. It was meant to ironically mean ‘lucky’ due to its poisonous features. Its displeasing smell and bitter taste mean that cases of poison are unusual.

BEAUTIFUL In small doses, it is believed that Euonymus europaeus stimulates appetite and is believed to be particularly purgative in treating liver disorders.

Festuca arundinacea aka Tall Fescue

DEADLY Festuca arundinacea is a native european grass plant found in damp grasslands, river banks and coastal areas. Although not deadly to humans, it is particularly lethal to horses who are prone to reproductive problems after consumption, resulting in the death of the foal, mare or both. In cattle it can cause a roughening of the coat and an intolerance to heat.

BEAUTIFUL It is an important grass in agriculture throughout Europe due to its phytoremedial properties.

Giant hogweed aka Heracleum mantegazzianum, cartwheel-flower, giant cow parsnip, hogs bane

DEADLY Giant hogweed typically grows to impressive heights of two to five metres high. It is a phototoxic, noxious weed, which produces a sap capable of causing severe skin inflammations such as painful blisters, scars and even blindness if it comes into contact with eyes. It is capable of sensitising the skin to UV light making it more prone to irritation.

BEAUTIFUL In the past the root of the giant hogweed was used for its essential oils which were thought to contain sedative properties.

Hedera algeriensis aka Ivy, Algerian Ivy, Gloire de Marengo

DEADLY Hedera algeriensis is a vigorous evergreen climbing plant which contains a substance which may is mildly toxic and may cause severe discomfort if ingested. Handling the plant may even cause a skin reaction or an allergic reaction.

BEAUTIFUL Not known to have any medicinal properties, however common English ivy has historically been used for a range of complaints.

Ilex aquifolium aka Holly, Common Holly or often thought of as Christmas holly

DEADLY The common holly plant can surprisingly reach 10 metres in height and live up to 500 years making it one of the most sturdy and hardened evergreen plants. The berries that the plant produces contain substances such as caffeine which are considered toxic to humans. Consuming the berries is not thought to be deadly but the plants properties may be particularly toxic to animals such as dogs and cats who may accidentally ingest the berries.

BEAUTIFUL Although rarely used medicinally, it is known to hold diuretic and laxative properties as well as having the ability to relieve fevers.

Jacobaea vulgaris aka Ragwort, Tansy ragwort, Benweed, Staggerwort

DEADLY Jacobaea vulgaris is a very common wild flower which is usually considered to be a weed. It is especially dangerous to cattle and horses, who may unwittingly graze on the plant once it has dried in hay, where it uses its distinctively bitter taste. Excessive consumption leads to liver disease and failure.

BEAUTIFUL Although toxic if ingested, its bitter taste usually avoids this happening, therefore externally it can be used to treat stings and skin ulcers.

Kalmia latifolia aka Mountain-laurel, Calico-bush, Spoonwood

DEADLY Native to Eastern America, and the state flower of Connecticut and Pennsylvania due to its very beautiful appearance, however Kalmia latifolia is actually poisonous to many animals and humans, causing neurotoxic, gastrointestinal and a wide range of other symptoms if consumed to excess.

BEAUTIFUL Traditionally the leaves are dried and powdered to be used for the treatment of skin diseases such as jaundice and inflammation however great care should be taken in its use due to the potentially toxic properties.

Laburnum anagyroides aka Ivy, Algerian Ivy, Gloire de Marengo

DEADLY Known for its striking yellow flowers which drape down from the tree, the Laburnum as well as being a beautiful plant is also quite toxic, due to it containing a poisonous substance called cytosine, likened to nicotine, for its toxic properties. Excessive consumption results in nausea, frothing at the mouth and even coma.

BEAUTIFUL The seeds of the Laburnum contain a poisonous alkaloid called cytisine which has been used medically to help people quit smoking. Due to its properties being similar to nicotine it has similar pharmacological effects.

Menispermum aka Moonseed

DEADLY Menispermum is a wood climbing vine which has small flowers and grape-like fruits which often grows in wooded areas and on the banks of streams. The name ‘moon’ comes from the shape of the seed which resembles a crescent moon. All parts of the plant are known to be poisonous, particularly the fruit which resemble grapes, and is potentially deadly if consumed in large quantities. It is particularly dangerous due to accidental consumption of the fruit which look very similar to grapes.

BEAUTIFUL Traditionally it has been used for a variety of medicinal uses in America and Europe. Moonseed has been used for the treatment of skin disorders, rheumatism and even cervical cancer. It is also believed to hold laxative and diuretic properties as well as providing gynecological and venereal aid.

Narcissus aka Daffodil, Daffadowndilly, Jonquil, Lent lily

DEADLY Narcissus is a spring flowering plant commonly known as the daffodil which is associated with the Christian celebration of Easter. Surprisingly it contains the toxic alkaloid lycorine; ingestion results in nausea leading to neurological and cardiac disturbances, including trembling, convulsions, and paralysis. Death may result if large quantities are consumed. The bulb is particularly dangerous due to its similarity in appearance to an onion.

BEAUTIFUL Despite the lethal potential of Narcissus alkaloids, they have been used for centuries as traditional medicines for a variety of complaints, including cancer.

Oenanthe Crocata aka Water dropwort

DEADLY Oenanthe lives in damp marshy conditions and resembles celery; the leaves are quite safe however the stems and root are particularly poisonous, with one root being enough to kill. Oenathe is particularly dangerous because of its similarity with other edible plants. Historically Oenanthe is one of the most deadly plants known to man with many fatalities linked to consumption of the toxic root.

BEAUTIFUL Oenanthe Crocata has never been used for medicinal purposes due to its high toxicity making it particularly dangerous; however there is some evidence that it is effective in small doses at treating skin diseases.

Phytolacca americana aka American Pokeweed, American nightshade, Pigeon berry, Pokeweed

DEADLY Phytolacca americana has many dangerous properties, most dangerous being the root, stem and leaves, whilst its distinctive purple berries are unusually not the most poisonous element. If consumed the symptoms include a burning sensation in the mouth and gastroenteritis. Depending upon the amount consumed more severe symptoms can occur; altered heart rate and even death from respiratory failure.

BEAUTIFUL Surprisingly, young Phytolacca americana are supposedly edible once repeatedly boiled, however it is not advised as there is no guarantee all toxicity has been removed. It is believed that the juice from the plant can treat arthritis and has historically been used to treat a range of ailments.

Quercus aka Oak, Oak Tree

DEADLY The well known Oak tree may be surprisingly listed as a poisonous plant, but the leaves and acorns of the oak tree are particularly poisonous to cattle, horses, sheep and goats. The toxicity of the tannin within the leaves is capable of causing kidney damage and gastroenteritis. Surprisingly, the domestic pig is able to consume acorns without becoming ill due to traditionally grazing in oak woodlands. Acorns may be consumed by humans once the tannin has been removed.

BEAUTIFUL Oak bark has been traditionally employed in medicines due to its healing and antiseptic properties. It is also thought, despite causing it, to also treat gastroenteritis and has historically been used in many different ointments.

Ricinus communis aka Castor oil plant

DEADLY The Castor oil plant has a wide range of uses despite its surprisingly toxic qualities. A lethal dose is only four to eight seeds due to the presence of ricin within them. It is supposedly one of the most poisonous plants in the world and causes a highly uncomfortable and lingering death however there have been no known fatalities for some time.

BEAUTIFUL Castor oil is used for many different applications including the manufacturing of soaps, lubricants, hydraulic and brake fluids, paints, dyes, coatings, inks, cold resistant plastics, waxes and polishes, nylon, pharmaceuticals and perfumes.

Sanguinaria canadensis aka Bloodroot, Bloodwort

DEADLY Sanguinaria canadensis is an ornamental plant prized by gardeners for its large beautiful flowers. It produces poisonous alkaloids, even applying bloodroot to the skin may cause the tissue to be destroyed.

BEAUTIFUL Applying extract of bloodroot to the skin may be a remedy for cancerous skin tumours but it is not advised as it cannot be guaranteed to completely remove a tumour. Historically it was used for other skin remedies too such as removing warts.

Taxus baccata aka Yew

DEADLY Baccata is Latin for bearing red berries, yet it is exactly this red exterior which is not poisonous; however the seed inside and the rest of the yew tree are extremely poisonous. Its toxic potency increases when dried; poisoning symptoms effect the heart rate resulting in muscle tremors and eventually heart failure.

BEAUTIFUL The yew is an ancient tree with its presence written into many myths and legends; particularly in religion, which is why the yew tree is often found in churchyards. Certain elements on the yew tree, particularly the bark, have cancer deterring qualities and it is used in the Himalayas for the treatment of breast & ovarian cancer.

Urtica ferox aka Ongaonga, Tree Nettle

DEADLY Urtica ferox is a nettle native to New Zealand, which can grown up to five metres tall and has large stinging spines. Even the lightest touch can cause a very painful sting which can last several days. There has only been one recorded death from contact with the plant, where a man came into contact with a particularly dense patch of Urtica ferox and suffered from difficulty walking, breathing, acute nerve damage and loss of sight, dying only 5 hours after the initial contact.

BEAUTIFUL Urtica ferox is not known to have any medicinal uses due to its toxic properties however traditional stinging nettles are thought to hold many medicinal properties once brewed and consumed as tea or soup.

Veratrum viride aka False Hellebore, Indian Poke, Devils Bite, Duck Retten, Itchweed, Tickleweed

DEADLY Veratrum viride is a highly toxic plant which grows across Eastern and Western North America and is considered a pest by many famers due to its risk to livestock. It is capable of causing severe nausea if consumed leading to cold sweats and the sensation of vertigo, blood pressure and respiration slows, eventually leading to a painful death.

BEAUTIFUL Due to Veratrum viride’s capability to slow heart rate it has sometimes been used in the treatment of high blood pressure and rapid heartbeat. Traditionally it was used in tribes for rituals and ceremonies due to its purgative effects.

Wislizenia refracta aka Spectacle fruit and Jackass clover

DEADLY Wislizenia refracta is a branching herb which is topped with a dense collection of mustard yellow flowers. The foliage of the plant is highly toxic but the foul oder it produces normally deters humans and animals from attempting to eat the plant.

BEAUTIFUL There is little research into the medicinal properties of Wislizenia refracta due to the plant only growing in parts of South America and Northern Mexico.

Xanthium strumarium aka cocklebur

DEADLY Xanthium strumarium are coarse spiral shaped plants covered in thorny spines, native to North America. It is an invasive species, spreading quickly and easily, and making it particularly dangerous to livestock. The seeds are the most toxic part of the plant and cause death in livestock if consumed although their thorny appearance normally deters consumption.

BEAUTIFUL Its name derives from the Greek word ‘xanthos’ which means ‘yellow’, which displays the plants historic use as a means of making yellow dye. In traditional Chinese medicine the plant is used to treat nasal and sinus congestion, as the seed oil is actually edible.

Yellow jessamine aka Gelsemium sempervirens, Jasmine, Carolina jasmine, Evening trumpet flower, Woodbine

DEADLY Yellow jessamine is a climbing, twining, vine native to the warm temperatures of Guatemala. It can grow to heights of three to six metres and produces clusters of strongly scented yellow flowers. All parts of the plant contain a highly toxic substance which should not be consumed. The plant has sometimes been mistaken for honeysuckle causing people to be unwittingly poisoned by sucking the nectar from the flower.

BEAUTIFUL Historically yellow jessamine was used to treat skin infections and headaches, plus a range of illnesses including measles and tonsillitis.

Aconitum Zantedeschia aka Arum lily, Calla, Calla lily

DEADLY Zantedeschia is a highly ornamental plant with beautiful twisting flowers which come in a variety of flamboyant colours. Despite its beautiful appearance the plant can cause irritation when touched due to its toxic properties; it may cause a swelling burning sensation in the mouth and nausea if touched.

BEAUTIFUL There are many cultural associations with the Zantedeschia, due to its unusual beauty and exotic appearance, making it the subject of many artists works. Due to its striking appearance, It is often used ornately in bridal and funeral flower arrangements. In Southern Africa, Its leaves have traditionally been used to dress wounds and bites and have reportedly even been eaten once carefully prepared to reduce the risk of poisoning.

This book will guide you page by page, through hand illustrated letters, the most stunningly toxic flora and fauna known to man. It will inform you of the beautiful qualities each plant possesses but also reveal the toxic and sometimes fatal power that also lies within. “A drop dead gorgeous read” “Reveals natures frightfully delightful secrets” “Full of dead beautiful illustration” Book design & illustrations © Anna Badger 2015

A to Z of Alluringly Poisionous Plants  
A to Z of Alluringly Poisionous Plants