September 16th, 2010
It is important to take care with some species of plants that are commonly found throughout the Mediterranean and particularly in Spain. People with children or dogs need to pay special attention.
It is generally advisable to grow them in areas that are not easily accessible to children and to take certain precautions when caring for them, wearing gloves and taking care not to leave branches/leaves when pruning. Do not burn these plants as the fumes may be toxic as well.
Here are seven of the most common and poisonous plants to be found in your typical Spanish garden.
The Castor oil plant – Ricinus communis
The Castor oil plant is found all over the Mediterranean region and is particularly toxic to humans and animals. All parts of the plant are dangerous. However, the flowers at the top contain little pods, there are three seeds within each pod, these seeds are particularly lethal, containing high concentrations of Ricin.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records (1997 edition) this plant is the most poisonous in the world.
Angel’s Trumpets – Datura
Another common sight across Spain are Angel’s Trumpets, commonly known as Datura. A beautiful plant with white or pink flowers. It is also a member of the age-old “witches weeds” along with deadly nightshade, henbane and mandrake.
The seeds and leaves are the most toxic part, although, most parts of the plants contain toxic hallucinogens.
Datura plants contain tropane alkaloids, children are particularly vulnerable to this kind of poison and the prognosis is often fatal.
The Calla Lily – Zantedeschia
A very common plant found throughout the Mediterranean and all over Spain. Originally from South Africa. It is an exceptional beautiful plant that flowers in late winter or early Spring, then dies down until the following year.
Its leaves are toxic. When in contact with skin, eyes or lips will cause a nasty burn or irritation.
Adelfa – Nerium oleander
Being particular drought resistant, Adelfa is found throughout Spain. It is an increasingly common sight along motorways in Southern Spain.
The flowers can be red, white, pink or yellow. All parts of the plant are highly toxic and particular care should be taken when pruning as the sap is particularly dangerous.
Wisteria - Fabaceae
Extremely popular as ornamental plants across Asia, Wisteria is ideally suited to the Mediterranean climate. All parts of the plant are toxic if consumed, but, the pods and the seeds are the most dangerous parts.
Lantana – Verbenaceae
The Lantana plants are drought resistant and extremely colourful, with a mix of orange, red, yellow, blue and white florets.
The berries and leaves are toxic. Less so, than some of the other plants listed above. But they are still classified as hepatogenic.
Poinsettia – Euphorbia pulcherrima
Known across Spain as the ‘Estrella de Navidad – Christmas Star,’ no Spanish home is complete without one over Christmas time.
All parts of the plant are mildly toxic with white sap being slightly more dangerous.