CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — If you have a child that plays outside a lot, odds are they have eaten wild onions or sour grass (even if you told them not to).
But there are some plants that might look edible to children that if consumed, can be fatal. Here are a few deadly ones that you might find in West Virginia.
Berries and Seeds
Castor Bean – The Castor plant is commonly planted for decorative reasons, but according to the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, “children should not have access to this plant.” The seeds can be fatal even in very small amounts—just a few milligrams of the protein ricin which is in the plant can kill an adult. While castor oil is safe and has medicinal uses, because of its toxicity, it actually illegal to grow in certain states, including Oklahoma.
The castor plant can be identified by its eight-pointed leaves that range from dark green to purple in color and its red spiky seeds.
Bittersweet – The West Virginia Department of Agriculture warns that berries might look attractive to children. Although not usually deadly, poisoning can be fatal in rare cases for children if the leaves or berries are consumed. The fruits are orange and grow on climbing vines.
Moonseed – This toxic vine looks similar to wild grapes. However, the distinguishing factors are the large, crescent shapes pit in each fruit, and instead of the three lobes and jagged edges of grape leaves, moonseed leaves have heart shaped leaves with smooth edges. “Cases have been reported in nearby states where children were poisoned by eating the fruits of this plant,” says the West Virginia Department of Agriculture Poisonous Plants guide.
Yew – The leaves, bark and seeds of this evergreen shrub are toxic. According to the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, although the bright red fruit itself is not toxic, injesting the seeds could cause circulatory failure.
Flowers and Leaves
Poison Hemlock – This is one of the most commonly known plants used for poisonings, including the poisoning of Socrates. All parts of the plant are toxic and deadly, especially when green. The plant is identifiable by its dark, segmented leaves. stem with purple spots, and distinct “mousy” smell, according to the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.
Wisteria – “Children have reportedly been poisoned in other States by eating the seeds or pods of this commonly cultivated vine.” Although all parts of the plant are poisonous, it’s usually the seeds that are accidentally ingested. Seek urgent medical attention if chewed or swallowed by humans or animals. A case from 1993 reported that a woman ate 10 seeds and felt affects for seven days.
Jimsonweed – According to WebMD, jimsonweed contains atropine, hyoscyamine and scopolamine, which can cause hallucinations and even be deadly. The West Virginia Department of Agriculture, symptoms are pupil dilation, rapid heart action, dryness of mouth and depression of the nervous system. It can be identified by its thick purple stem and large white to purple flowers.
Christmas Rose – All parts of a Christmas rose are poisonous and affect both humans and animals. It doesn’t look much like a rose at all and is actually an evergreen flowering plant with white flowers and dark green to even blue leaves. It is known for flowering in the winter, but the leaves are also toxic.
Foxglove – Poisoning is rare but usually happens from sucking on the bell-shaped flower or eating the seeds, stems or leaves. The ingredients are used in heart stimulant medication, but should not be ingested in large doses. Foxglove can be identified by its pink/purple flowers and oval shaped leaves with a serrated edge.
If you suspect that someone has been poisoned, call the West Virginia Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.
These are just some of the plants that can cause poisonings that grow in West Virginia. For a more detailed list, check out the West Virginia Department of Agriculture Poisonous Plants book.