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Poisonous plants

Just like animals, plants have developed an array of deadly defences. Discover how chemical compounds can turn an innocent looking ornamental into a dangerous assassin.

Don't try these at home

Different toxins affect different parts of our body, causing everything from kidney failure, heart failure, brain damage and even death. It's why humans have used poisonous plants in weapons to kill prey and even commit murder.

But most of the time, our run in with poisonous plants is a mistake. There are thousands of accidental poisoning illnesses and deaths each year all around the world because it's often very hard to tell the difference between something that’s poisonous, and something that’s not.

Hit play below to take a deep dive into the deadly world of killer plants with this awesome line up of guests who use their expertise to help with everything from solving murders, counter terrorism cases and saving lives.

  • Dr Elizabeth Dauncey - plant toxicologist and author from the UK
  • Associate Professor Naren Gunja - Medical and forensic toxicologist in Sydney​
  • Andrew Orme & Seanna Mccune - Technical Officers working within the Botanical Information Service at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney
Brugmansia is a genus of seven species of flowering plants often known as Angel's Trumpets. They contain alkaloids which block the muscarinic receptor in the brain and can cause profound toxicity leading to heart and nervous system problems, seizures and comas.
As little as half an Amanita phalloides (death cap mushroom) contains enough toxin to kill an adult human. They are responsible for the majority of mushroom poisoning deaths around the world. 
Aconitum, also known as aconite, monkshood or wolf's-bane contain alkaloids that will disrupt the contractions of the heart and can lead to heart failure.
If you've seen the show Breaking Bad you might remember this plant: Ricinus communis, the castor bean or castor oil plant. A dose of purified ricin powder the size of a few grains of table salt can kill an adult human. 

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