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Flowers, typically bright and beautiful, also have a dark side. From carnivorous blooms to poisonous posies, not all flowers are as sweet and innocent as they appear.
Here are 10 of the world's strangest flowers and plants. Before you stop to give them a sniff, be warned: Even the blossoms that don't contain neurotoxins put out odors pungent enough to knock you over.
10. Nerium oleander the sweetly scented killerSlide 2 of 21
10. Nerium oleander the sweetly scented killer
The elegant Nerium oleander, the blossoms of which are crimson, magenta or creamy white, is one of the most toxic plants in the world. Every part of the plant, from its stem to its sap, is incredibly poisonous if ingested. Even inhaling the smoke from a burning oleander is a health threat.
There have been cases of inadvertent poisonings resulting from campers using oleander branches to roast hotdogs and marshmallows. In fact, it is believed that some of Napoleon's soldiers died in Spain when they used oleander sticks to roast meat , according to "The Vegetable Kingdom; or, The Structure, Classification, and Uses of Plants" (D. Appleton & Co., 1853). The blossom is so dangerous that even the honey made by bees that used the oleander plant for nectar is poisonous.
The flower's toxins cause an irregular heart rate, which at first races and then drops to a rate far below normal, until the heart stops beating altogether.Slide 3 of 21
9. Aconitum the devil's helmetSlide 4 of 21
9. Aconitum the devil's helmet
The Aconitum flower seems to be the bane of everyone: It is also known as wolfsbane (originally wolf's bane), dogbane, mousebane, leopard's bane, tiger's bane, witch's bane and women's bane. Like the oleander, it is a beautiful but deadly garden plant.
Its downward-curved periwinkle petals resemble a friar's cap, which explains its non-bane monikers, such as the Devil's helmet, monkshood and blue rocket. There are more than 250 species of Aconitum, and it is a member of the buttercup family. Just a few drops from the plant's roots can cause paralysis of the cardiac muscles or of the entire respiratory system, resulting in death.
During the Middle Ages, witches used the wolfsbane in their "flying" potions because of the feelings of dizziness and numbness brought on by its irregular heartbeat side effects . They also used them in love potions, but because these poisonous elixirs often ended up killing the paramour, the plant also earned the name of Mourning Widow.Slide 5 of 21
8. Castor oil plant the most poisonous in the worldSlide 6 of 21
8. Castor oil plant the most poisonous in the world
The most poisonous plant in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Castor oil plant is also known as the "palm of Christ", or Palma Christi, which stems from the plant oil's ability to heal wounds. However, it also has the power to kill, as just one milligram of the plant's poison can kill an adult, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
For centuries, the Chinese have used castor oil as a medicine and when bandaging injuries. The plant is also used to produce biodiesel fuel in Brazil, where it is called mamona oil. Castor oil can also be found in chocolate when it is used as a cocoa butter substitute, as well as in soap, laxatives, ink and plastics .
The flowering plant's seeds, however, contain ricin, an extremely poisonous toxin. Ricin is also present in lower concentrations in the plant's glossy leaves, which are most often dark green or burgundy. The castor oil plant's flowers resemble spiky, hot pink pom-poms and are especially dangerous to small children.Slide 7 of 21
7. Dracunculus vulgaris Dracula's flowerSlide 8 of 21