Poisonous Plants


This volume is intended for use by homeowners, farmers, veterinarians, and health care professionals, as well as botanically curious individuals.  Each poisonous plant is listed alphabetically by scientific name.  The metric system is used throughout.

PLANT NAMES:  Each entry provides the generic name, followed by the Latin scientific and common names of the species that are poisonous in the genus.  When all species in a genius are known for suspected to produce toxicosis, the abbreviation "spp." is listed after the generic name.

FAMILY:  The family to which each plant belongs is fully described.  Occasionally a family will contain several genera of poisonous plants.  To avoid duplication of family characteristics, the reader is referred to the genius where the family description first appears.

PHENOLOGY:  Phenology is the study of flowering time of a plant in relationship to climate.  This may be a useful characteristic in determining the proper identity of a species.

Distribution data are provided.  The habitat where a poisonous plant is found can be helpful.  It should be noted that some toxic plants are ornamentals, others are houseplants, and still others are native or naturalized species.

Both the genus and species have diagnostic features necessary to properly identify the toxic plant.  This section, like the family description, will often contain terminology defined in the glossary.

This is a listing of the plant organs (flowers, leaves, seeds, roots, etc.) that contain the poisonous substances. It should be noted in some instances that not all parts of a plant are equally toxic.  Toxicity and lethal dosages of the plant material, when available, are noted here.

  Symptoms are listed for each poisonous plant.  In some instances postmortem lesions, both gross and histological, are provided.

POISONOUS PRINCIPLES:  This section details the toxic substances produced by the plant.  Natural toxic substances can be alkaloids (water insoluble, bitter tasting principles), amines, and polypeptides (molecules used to build proteins), glycosides (several classes exist: cyanogenic, goiterogenic, coumarin, steroid, and triterpenoid, cardiac, and saponins), mineral toxicosis agents (nitrogen), oxalates (corrosive oxalic acid), photosensitization agents (pigments or liver-damaging substances), phytotoxins (protein molecules), resins and resinoids (complex compounds not necessarily related).

CONFUSED TAXA:  This category provides information necessary to differentiate poisonous plants from plants with which the might be readily confused.

TREATMENT:  This section enumerates antidotes or therapeutic care that can be administered to aid the recovery of a poison victim.  Treatment categories often overlap for different cases of toxicosis.  To avoid repetition, therapies are listed by number.  Each number is fully explained in Appendix I .

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