Six Toxic Plants and Animals You Didn't Know Could Kill You

Did you know that the shrew is North America's only venomous mammal? The venom isn't enough to hurt a person, unless they were to have an allergic reaction to the neurotoxic venom. I remember a school camp out when I was a kid where a boy named Bobby picked up a cute little mouse-looking thing and it bit him. Within a few minutes, Bobby was in a fair bit of pain and his hand had swollen significantly. He was taken to the hospital just to be safe, and when the camp out resumed all the kids were terrified of walking through the tall grass where Bobby found that little "devil mouse".

So if a shrew is bad, what other unlikely critters and plants can harm us? The fact is, there are a lot of nasty things out there that can hurt the unaware and the unlucky.

  • Wilting cherry leaves have cyanide in them--enough, in fact, to kill large livestock.
  • Gila monsters have a venomous bite, which has occasionally been fatal.
  • The dogbane plant, which makes strong cordage, contains a toxic cardiac glycoside, apocynamarin, which can cause a heart attack if ingested.
  • A common wild plant called Mexican tea, also known as epizote, is commonly used as a cooking herb; however, it is toxic enough to expel worms and it can be fatal in large doses.
  • Mistletoe is an oak tree parasite plant, which gets a lot of attention around Christmas and has claimed the lives of both people and animals.
  • The false morel mushroom is quite poisonous, with recorded fatalities and a disturbingly similar appearance to the popular edible morel.

Let us know in the comments if you have run across things in your travels or in your back yard that turned out to be more hazardous than they appeared.