December 12, 2018
Sure, sharks are fearsome killers, but then there are only 4 or 5 fatal shark attacks per year, while it is estimated that texting while driving kills 6,000 annually in the U.S. alone.
But what about less obvious dangers, like deadly plants?
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Giant Pitcher Plant
Discovered more than 5000 feet above sea level on Mount Victoria in the Philippines, the giant, carnivorous pitcher plant secretes a nectar-like substance to lure unsuspecting prey into a pool of enzymes and acid.
Castor Bean Plant
Castor-bean plants can be purchased at just about any garden center, despite containing the deadly poison ricin.
Western Water Hemlock
Deemed the most "violently toxic plant that grows in North America" by the USDA, the water hemlock contains the toxin cicutoxin, which wreaks havoc on the central nervous system, causing grand mal seizures--which include loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions--and eventually death, if ingested.
Every part of this perennial plant contains tremetol, an unsaturated alcohol that can cause muscle tremors in livestock before killing them.
The vibrant purple plant, commonly found in backyard gardens, is loaded with the poisonous alkaloid aconite, which tends to cause asphyxiation.
This aquatic meat eater relies on several submerged bladders to capture prey such as tadpoles and small crustaceans. An unsuspecting passerby will brush against an external bristle-trigger, causing the bladders to spring open and capture it. Once inside, the victim dies of suffocation or starvation and then decays into a liquid that is sucked up by cells on the walls of the bladder.
With the ability to clamp shut in a half-second, the Venus flytrap's reaction time seems fit for the animal kingdom. Insects need to touch two of the flytrap's hairs consecutively in order for the plant to react, but the precise mechanism that shuts the trap remains unclear.
The droopy, gorgeous angel trumpet, native to regions of South America, packs a powerful punch of toxins, containing atropine, hyoscyamine, and scopolamine.
This extremely common evergreen shrub is one of the most poisonous plants in the world. The leaves, flowers and fruit contain cardiac glycosides, which have therapeutic applications but are likely to send someone into cardiac arrest should he eat part of the plant.
Mala mujer, which translates to "bad woman," can be found in parts of the southwest and Mexico and is covered with nasty thorns, which could be turned into makeshift barbwire if needed. The real danger, however, comes from the caustic, milky sap that can leak from the plant. The sap, a common feature among many plants in the Euphorbia genus, can cause painful skin irritations and unsightly discoloration.
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