Tag Archives: poison plant

Marsh Marigold A Beauty with Dangers

As winter fades away and nature awakens, one can’t help but marvel at the colors and delicate blooms of our surroundings. Among the many spring flowers is the Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris). With its vibrant yellow petals and lush green leaves, this lovely perennial is a true symbol of the changing seasons that can enchant any nature lover, but it is crucial to understand that this alluring beauty harbors a secret: it contains poisonous compounds.

marsh marigold flowers have a distinct cup shape with five to nine overlapping petals The glossy, dark green leaves of the Marsh Marigold are rounded or heart-shaped

Common Names:

The Marsh Marigold goes by several common names across different regions. In addition to Marsh Marigold, it is often people refer to it as Kingcup due to the resemblance of its cup-shaped flowers to a royal chalice. Furthermore, Sometimes naturalists call it Cowslip of the Marsh, although it is distinct from the true Cowslip (Primula veris). These various names reflect the plant’s widespread popularity and recognition.


Marsh Marigold is known for its bright, golden-yellow flowers that bloom in early spring, typically between March and May, depending on the region. The flowers have a distinct cup shape with five to nine overlapping petals. They can reach a diameter of around 2 to 5 centimeters (0.8 to 2 inches). The glossy, dark green leaves of the Marsh Marigold are rounded or heart-shaped and are borne on long stalks emerging from the base of the plant. This perennial herb grows to a height of about 30 to 90 centimeters (12 to 35 inches).


Marsh Marigold is native to Europe, Asia, and North America. In Europe, it can be found throughout the continent, from the British Isles to Scandinavia and down to the Mediterranean region. In Asia, its range extends from Siberia to Japan. In North America, Marsh Marigold is distributed across Canada and the northern United States, particularly in wetland areas.


Just like Cattails, Marsh Marigold thrives in wet and marshy habitats, displaying a preference for shallow water bodies such as ponds, ditches, swamps, and damp meadows. It is commonly found near streams and rivers, where it benefits from the constant moisture. The plant can tolerate partial shade but generally prefers full sun. Its adaptability to various soil types, including clay, loam, and sandy soils, contributes to its wide distribution.

Marsh Marigold thrives in wet and marshy habitats

Poisonous Components:

The Marsh Marigold contains toxic compounds, primarily protoanemonin, which is a potent irritant. Protoanemonin is released when the plant is damaged or crushed, making it potentially harmful to humans and animals alike. While the entire plant contains varying levels of protoanemonin, the highest concentrations are typically found in the fresh leaves and stems. The roots and seeds also contain trace amounts of this toxic compound, albeit in smaller quantities.

Symptoms of Poisoning:

If the Marsh Marigold is ingested or comes into contact with the skin or eyes, it can lead to various symptoms of poisoning. These symptoms include blistering, skin irritation, redness, swelling, and burning sensations. Ingestion of the plant can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and in severe cases, even respiratory distress. It is important to note that the intensity of the symptoms can vary depending on the individual and the amount of exposure to the toxic compounds.

Marsh Marigold Conservation Status:

The conservation status of the Marsh Marigold is a matter of concern. While it is not globally threatened, this species faces certain challenges, as does the broadleaf arrowhead, due to habitat loss and degradation. Wetland destruction, pollution, and invasive species pose significant threats to its survival. Additionally, over-harvesting for ornamental purposes can further impact the population of this plant in the wild. It is crucial to raise awareness about the importance of conserving wetland habitats and protecting the Marsh Marigold along with other flora and fauna that depend on these ecosystems.

Notes of Interest:

  1. Historical Uses: Despite its toxicity, Marsh Marigold has been utilized in traditional medicine for centuries. It was employed for treating various ailments such as skin conditions, rheumatism, and even as a diuretic.

  2. Symbolic Meaning: Marsh Marigold is often associated with rebirth and renewal. Its bright yellow flowers herald the arrival of spring, symbolizing hope, and new beginnings.

  3. Ecological Role: This plant plays a vital role in wetland ecosystems. Its flowers provide a valuable source of nectar for pollinators, while its foliage offers shelter for small aquatic organisms.

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) is a captivating wetland plant that should be admired from a safe distance due to its poisonous nature. While it possesses a certain allure, caution should be exercised when encountering this plant to avoid any potential harm. Understanding its toxicity and taking steps towards preserving its habitat will ensure the continued existence of this species for future generations to appreciate.

Marsh Marigold Look-Alikes:

  1. Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria): One of the most common plants mistaken for marsh marigold is the lesser celandine. Both plants belong to the same family, Ranunculaceae, and share a similar yellow flower color. However, there are notable differences in their leaves and habitats. While marsh marigold thrives in wetland areas and has round, kidney-shaped leaves, lesser celandine prefers drier habitats and displays heart-shaped leaves. According to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), the two plants can sometimes be found growing alongside each other, contributing to the confusion (RHS).

  2. Kingcup (Caltha palustris var. radicans): Another plant closely related to the marsh marigold is the kingcup, which is a subspecies of Caltha palustris. Kingcup resembles marsh marigold so closely that the two are often considered synonymous. The primary difference lies in the habitat: while marsh marigold is found in marshes and wetlands, kingcup typically inhabits damp meadows and woodland areas. However, due to regional variations, the terms marsh marigold and kingcup are sometimes used interchangeably, leading to further confusion (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh).

  3. Globe Flower (Trollius spp.): Globe flowers, belonging to the Trollius genus, are often mistaken for marsh marigolds due to their similar appearance. Both plants share the characteristic yellow, buttercup-like flowers, and grow in similar habitats. However, globe flowers can be distinguished by their more rounded petals and taller stature compared to marsh marigold. The Royal Horticultural Society notes that globe flowers are commonly found in mountainous regions and prefer cool, moist conditions (RHS).

  4. Cowslip (Primula veris): Cowslips, while not as like marsh marigolds as the previously mentioned plants, can still occasionally be confused with them. Both species exhibit vibrant yellow flowers and bloom in early spring. However, cowslips have a more delicate appearance, with smaller flowers growing in clusters atop slender stems. Moreover, cowslips prefer drier habitats, often gracing meadows, and grasslands. In contrast, marsh marigolds favor wet and marshy areas (Wildlife Trusts).


  1. Missouri Botanical Garden: Caltha palustris. Available at: https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=c177

  2. The Wildlife Trusts: Marsh-marigold.
  3. USDA Plants Database: Caltha palustris. Available at: https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=CAPA8

  4. Royal Horticultural Society: Caltha palustris. Available at: https://www.rhs.org.uk/plants

  5. New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. (n.d.). Caltha palustris. Retrieved from https://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora/species/caltha-palustris/

  6. Plants For A Future. (n.d.). Caltha palustris – L. Retrieved from https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Caltha+palustris

  7. Pouliot, M., & Chamberland, C. (2012). Poison

pokeberry poison plant

Pokeberry is a highly versatile plant with a wide range of uses. Although it is often considered a weed due to its rapid growth and invasive tendencies, it has also been used in traditional medicine for centuries. In addition to its medicinal properties, pokeberry is also used for food and dye. Due to its poison, I am not one to use this plant. I do not support medicinal use or culinary use, there are so many other wild plants I see no reason to mess with the pokeberry poison plant.

Common Names:

Pokeberry is known by several different common names, including poke, poke salad, inkberry, pigeonberry, and pokeberry weed.


Poke weed is an herbaceous perennial plant that can grow up to 10 feet tall under ideal conditions. The plant typically grows in disturbed areas such as fields, roadsides, and forest edges.

Pokeberry has simple leaves on green to red or purplish stems and a large white taproot. The flowers are green to white

The leaves of poke weed are simple and alternate, with a length of 6 to 12 inches and a width of 2 to 6 inches. They are smooth and ovate, with a pointed tip and a smooth margin. The leaves are typically green but may take on a reddish or purplish tint as they mature.

The flowers of poke weed are small, white to greenish white in color, and are arranged in long, drooping clusters called racemes. The fruit of poke weed is a dark purple to black, juicy berry that is about the size of a pea. The berries contain a dark red juice that can stain skin and clothing.


Pokeberry is native to North America and can be found throughout the eastern and central regions of the United States.


It prefers moist, fertile soil and is commonly found in fields, pastures, and along roadsides.

Poison Part:

While the berries of pokeberry are edible when cooked properly, the plant is highly toxic and can be deadly if consumed in large quantities. The root, stem, leaves, and unripe berries contain high levels of toxins, including saponins and lectins. Pokeberry poison plant .

pokeweed does die back to ground level every winter, it is a difficult weed to get rid of. Winter kills off only the above-ground growth. pokeberry poison plant
Symptoms of Poison:

Ingesting pokeberry can cause a wide range of symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and dehydration. In severe cases, it can lead to respiratory failure and death.

Conservation Status:

Pokeberry is considered a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is a highly adaptable plant that can

thrive in a wide range of environments and is not currently threatened by extinction.

Notes of Interest:

In addition to its medicinal and culinary uses, pokeberry has also been used as a natural dye for textiles. The deep purple color of the berries can be extracted and used to dye fabric, yarn, and other materials.

Pokeberries should be handled with care due to the toxicity. It is important to properly cook any berries before consuming them and to avoid ingesting any other part of the plant. It’s important to note that while poke weed can be used for medicinal purposes, it is also toxic and can cause severe gastrointestinal distress if ingested in large amounts. With its versatility and unique properties, pokeberry remains an important plant in North American ecology and culture.

Back to poison plant index


Red baneberry (Actaea rubra)

Red baneberry (Actaea rubra), a highly toxic plant, can be found throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. Despite its toxic properties, it is a popular ornamental plant due to its striking red berries and delicate white flowers. With that said, this is a plant that should be avoided if you have children or pets.

General Comments:

Red baneberry is a highly poisonous plant that can be fatal to humans and animals. It contains a toxin called protoanemonin, which can cause a wide range of symptoms when ingested, including vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, seizures, and in severe cases, cardiac arrest. It is important to exercise caution when handling or consuming any part of this plant.

Common Names:

Red baneberry is also known by a variety of other common names, including red cohosh, doll’s eyes, snakeberry, and White Baneberry


Red baneberry is a perennial herbaceous plant that can grow up to 1 foot – 3 feet tall. It has delicate white flowers that bloom in late spring or early summer, which are followed by clusters of bright red berries. As the picture shows, leaves are alternate, 2 to 3 times compound, sharply toothed and lobed. The berries are about 1/8 inch in diameter and have a distinctive black “pupil” on each one, which gives them the appearance of doll’s eyes.

Red baneberry leaves are alternate, 2 to 3 times compound, sharply toothed and lobed.


Red baneberry is native to North America, Europe, and Asia. In North America, it can be found from Alaska to Newfoundland in the north, and from California to Georgia in the south. It is also found in parts of Europe and Asia, including Russia, China, and Japan.


The plant typically grows in moist, shady areas such as forests, meadows, and along stream banks. It prefers rich, loamy soil and is often found growing alongside other shade-loving plants such as ferns, wildflowers, and mosses.


All parts of the plant are toxic, but the berries are the most poisonous. The leaves, stems, and roots also contain the toxin protoanemonin, but in smaller amounts.

Symptoms of Poison:

Ingesting any part of the red baneberry plant can cause a wide range of symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, seizures, and in severe cases, cardiac arrest. Symptoms typically appear within 30 minutes to 2 hours of ingestion and can last for several hours. If you suspect that you or someone else has ingested red baneberry, seek medical attention immediately.

Conservation Status:

Red baneberry is not currently listed as endangered, but it is considered a species of concern in some parts of its range. Habitat loss and fragmentation are the primary threats to this plant, as it requires specific environmental conditions to thrive. Additionally, overharvesting of the plant for its ornamental value has contributed to its decline in some areas.

Notes of Interest:

Despite its toxicity, red baneberry has been used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including rheumatism, fever, and snake bites. However, these uses are not supported by scientific evidence and should be avoided due to the plant’s poisonous properties.

Red baneberry is a highly toxic plant that should be handled with caution. Despite its toxic properties, it remains a popular ornamental plant due to its striking red berries and delicate white flowers. If you encounter this plant in the wild, admire it from a safe distance and do not attempt to handle or consume any part of it.


•             USDA Plants Database: Actaea rubra. (n.d.). Retrieved March 31, 2023, from https://plants.usda.gov/home/pl

Buckthorn Poisonous Invasive Plant

Buckthorn Poisonous Invasive Plant

Common buckthorn, (Rhamnus cathartica) is a wild-growing deciduous shrub that produces small berries that resemble blueberries. Buckthorn berries are poisonous to both humans and animals, plus it’s an invasive plant. Buckthorn Poisonous Invasive Plant.

The plant is native to Europe and is sometimes called European Buckthorn, European Waythorn, and Hart’s Thorn. Whatever name you know the shrub by, make note not to forage for the berries.

Back to Poison Plants


Buckthorn Wild Poisonous and Invasive Plant

Buckthorn grows into a large shrub or small tree that can reach 20-feet tall when mature. The shrub will have a 3-5 foot spread with multiple branches and bark that easily flakes off. A nick in the flaky bark will reveal orange inner tissue.

The shrub develops small, oval leaves that are dull green with a lighter green underside, and the leaf edges are serrated. Each branch will have small thorns at the end and thorns may also be found at the junction of branches throughout the shrub.

Blooms appear in late spring at the same time the leaves are emerging. Flowers will have 4 petals that will be yellow or green in color. The blooms are fragrant but not much to look at.

Clusters of small green berries appear in the shrub after the flowers fade. As the berries ripen they turn from green to blue, then to purplish-black when fully ripe. Each small berry contains four seeds.

Wild Growing Locations

Common buckthorn is an understory plant and thrives along the edge of woods and waterways. It’s a hardy plant that develops into dense thickets and chokes out other native-growing plants.

The shrub is not picky about soil or light conditions and is able to grow almost anywhere. The long branches of the shrub and dense leaf covering that last well into fall produce so much shade that surrounding green plants quickly die from lack of sunlight.

Do Not Eat

Common buckthorn berries ripen they turn from green to blue, then to purplish-black when fully ripe.

Buckthorn berries look attractive on the shrub when they’re ripe but don’t eat them. In addition to being very low in nutrition and bitter, they also act as a strong laxative. The laxative impact is so strong that small birds and animals will die from the effect. Severe abdominal discomfort and dehydration will occur in humans if eaten.

Even the leaves of the shrub have a negative impact on the soil when they fall from the plant and decompose. The leaves are very high in nitrogen and provide a boost of energy for the shrub to develop more top growth. The increased nitrogen also promotes the fast growth of the hardier species of native weeds that survive around the shrub.


Under certain circumstances, the common buckthorn is useful. In barren areas where erosion control is needed this fast-growing shrub will provide a formidable windbreak and hold soil in place.

Buckthorn will survive in sandy, rocky, clay, or damp soil. It will also live in shady areas, in cold or hot climates. Salty sea air near the coastline or low oxygen levels on high mountains will not stop this invasive shrub from growing. As with any plant, the better the growing conditions the better it will grow, however, bad growing conditions will not stop this plant.

If you have a landscape area, like a rocky cliff or other steep terrain that needs erosion control, buckthorn may be helpful. The shrub does not attract bears, deer, or other wildlife, and in some situations that may be beneficial.

How To Get Rid Of Buckthorn

More people want to know how to get rid of the invasive shrub rather than how to grow it.  Removal is time-consuming and must be done meticulously to prevent the shrub from re-growing.

Small samplings can be pulled out of the soil by the roots and disposed of. The older shrubs that produce berries will need to be removed from the soil, along with all roots, and burned. If the shrubs are not burned and berries are on the uprooted buckthorn, there’s a possibility that birds will come by grab one in their mouth and drop it nearby. Buckthorns are so hardy and adaptable that all it takes is one dropped berry to start a new thicket.

After removal and burning, revisit the area several times to check for newly sprouted seedlings. Since each berry contains four seeds and shrub roots run deep, there’s always a chance that a few seeds escaped the flames or a root got left in the ground. Either occurrence will be the start of a new buckthorn thicket.

If multiple seedlings sprout in an area that has been cleared, mowing the seedlings down is often an effective removal method. Several mowings over the course of a summer may be needed to completely eradicate a buckthorn thicket.

Large stumps can be killed with chemical treatments instead of remmvong them from t he ground. However, if chemicals are used they will remain in the soil and render the soil unfit for growing any vegetations for the following 3-5 years.

Notes Of Interest

* Buckthorn has relatively no pest problems and no predators. The shrub can grow and spread undisturbed by any type of animal due to its poisonous nature.

* A few bird species will eat the buckthorn berries during winter when no other food source is available. Each berry contains four seeds so the invasive shrub is soon re-seeded in various locations through bird droppings.

* Seeds can remain viable in the soil for up to five years.

Buckthorn is a problem

  • Out-competes native plants for nutrients, light, and moisture
  • Degrades wildlife habitat
  • Threatens the future of forests, wetlands, prairies, and other natural habitats
  • Contributes to erosion by shading out other plants that grow on the forest floor
  • Serves as host to other pests, such as crown rust fungus and soybean aphid
  • Forms an impenetrable layer of vegetation
  • Lacks “natural controls” like insects or disease that would curb its growth

Buckthorn Poisonous Invasive Plant

USDA Plant database

Poison hemlock Identification

Poison hemlock Identification

Back to Poison Plant Guide


Poison hemlock is a biennial plant – it typically has a two year life cycle. First year plants are low-growing and may resemble carrots. They can be distinguished by the lack of hairs on the stems along with purple-reddish blotches. Second year plants may stretch over 10 feet tall.

Poison hemlock was brought to the United States from Europe as a garden plant. It took a bit less than a few centuries for this noxious plant to populate the North American continent. Just another case of poor thoughts and dire consequences.

Common Names

poison parsley, spotted corobane, carrot fern, devil’s bread and devil’s porridge


Poison hemlock stems are hollow and hairless. They are green with reddish or purple spots and streaks.

The triangular leaves are green and look like fern leaves. They are toothed on edges and have a strong musty odor when crushed.

Flowers grow on second year plants. They have 5 petals that are tiny and white – approximately 2 to 3 inches across. They are arranged in small, umbrella-shaped clusters on ends of branched stems – much like Queen Anne’s lace. Flowers are followed by green ridged seed cases that turn brown as the seeds mature.

Range and Habitat

As the map shows, poison-hemlock grows throughout the United States.

It likes sunlight and grows along fence lines, in irrigation ditches, and in other moist waste places.

Poison Parts

Poison hemlock range map across North America

Poison hemlock is acutely toxic to people and animals, with symptoms appearing 20 minutes to three hours after ingestion. All parts of the plant are poisonous and even the dead canes remain toxic for up to three years. Eating the plant is the main danger, but it is also toxic to the skin and respiratory system.

The seeds and roots are toxic. Roots of poison-hemlock are poisonous and may be mistaken for wild parsnips.

Poison Effects

The typical symptoms for humans include dilation of the pupils, dizziness, and trembling followed by slowing of the heartbeat, paralysis of the central nervous system, muscle paralysis, and death due to respiratory failure

Toxic Look-alikes

Poison hemlock Flowers grow on second year plants. They have 5 petals

Water hemlock stems may have purple spots, but leaves are not lacy. Highly toxic to humans and livestock.

Giant hogweed, which can cause severe blistering and swelling when the sap contacts human or animal skin, stems may have purple spots, but its leaves are not lacy.

Queen Anne’s Lace has lacy leaves, but stem has hairs and does not have purple blotches.

Wild parsnip does not have purple spots on the stem. Wild parsnip can cause severe blistering and swelling when the sap contacts human or animal skin.

Interesting Facts

Socrates is the most famous victim of hemlock poisoning

Back to Poison Plant Guide

USDA plant guide

White Baneberry Facts and Information

White Baneberry Facts and Information

General Information

White baneberry (Actaea pachypoda), also known as dolls eyes white cohosh, white-beads, white beads and toadroot is a native wildflower to the western hemisphere. It is a perennial member of the buttercup family growing in eastern North America. The plant flowers from May to June with white berries following that ripen over the summer. The berries will stay on the plant until frost. Many people use white baneberry in landscaping taking the plant from woodlands. In many cases this is illegal and in several states such as New York and Florida, the actions have led to the plant being listed as exploitably vulnerable and endangered respectively. Taking seeds and planting them in domestic landscape may take two years to germinate and adversely affect the natural environment. If you find white baneberry interesting and wish to include it in your landscaping, please contact a stocking nursery – if they do not have in stock, they can special order.


White baneberry grows to about 18 inches to 2 feet tall and can spread from 2 feet to 3 feet wide. Its leThe roots and berries of white baneberry are the most poisonous parts of baneberryaves are toothed at the edges and are also compound. They are roughly 16 inches long and 12 inches wide. The leaves grow alternately on the stem – this means one leaf comes out at a time on the stem.

The flowers are small – maybe ¼ to ½ inch and are colored white and grow on the end of a stalk. As referenced earlier, the flowers bloom from May to June. The picture of the white baneberry flower comes from USDA plant database.

What is so interesting about this plant are the berries and the way they sit on the plant. They look almost alien. One of its nicknames, dolls eyes is spot on. The berries are not really that big, ½ inch or so in diameter, all white with a black stigma scar.


White baneberry thrive in moist, fertile soil with lots of organic white baneberry range mapmatter in partial to full shade. White baneberry is an upland plant and almost never occurs in wetlands. The picture of the plant with berries was taken in the Southern Adirondacks in a deciduous forest border facing south above a small lake.

Range A range map indicates, white baneberry grows North into Ontario Canada and east to Nova Scotia. It grows as far south as Florida and west out to Louisiana and Oklahoma.


Although I have read that certain birds dowhite baneberry leaves are toothed at the edges and are also compound eat the berries, the entire plant, just like Climbing Nightshade, is poisonous including the leaves, stalk, and especially the berries. If eaten, symptoms include nausea, vomiting, cramps, mouth blisters, confusion, and headache. The plant’s poison also has cardiogenic properties and can cause cardiac arrest (heart attack) in in children and immune compromised adults. This is a plant best admired for its beauty and left alone.