Deadly Nightshade, Atropa belladonna
Otherwise known as “Beautiful Death” or “Banewort,” deadly nightshade is one of the most toxic plants in the Eastern Hemisphere. The berries, leaves, and roots are extremely toxic when ingested, and some symptoms of poisoning include blurred vision, rash, severely dry mouth, and hallucinations. The genus name of Atropa comes from the Greek Atropos, who was oldest sister of the three Fates. Greek myth says that Atropos was the one who “cut the thread (thus determining the individual’s moment of death)”, much like deadly nightshade if you ingest it.
Jimson weed, also known as devil’s snare, is a member of the nightshade family and is also closely related to tomato, eggplant, pepper, tobacco, and potato plants. However, Jimson weed is highly toxic and can cause convulsions, hallucinations and even death if ingested. In traditional Chinese medicine and even some Native American cultures, the seeds and leaves of this plant have been used as antiasthmatics and narcotics. There is even a famous story connecting Jimson weed to Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676, which is how the plant got the “Jimson” name. British soldiers had been sent to Jamestown in Virginia to quell the uprising known as Bacon’s Rebellion, but they had been poisoned by the plant (intentional or by accident, experts disagree) and they “turned natural fools upon it for several days.”
Water Hemlock, Cicuta maculata
In the same family as carrots, celery, cumin, dill, fennel, parsley, anise, parsnip, and coriander, spotted water hemlock is the most deadliest plant in North America. This plant can be regularly found in wet soils at the edge of waterways, like streams and irrigation canals. It is a typical wetland plant and even occurs on pastures or tilled lands. If ingested symptoms, which include seizuring, nausea, vomiting, muscle twitching, increased pulse, excessive salivating, and pupil dilation, can occur anywhere between 15 minutes to 6 hours after the fact and can be fatal. Water hemlock poisoning is said to be particularly violent, as once described from a member of the Seneca American Indian community in 1941:
“There is nothing good about the plant. Those who eat it will die in two hours. It must be a painful death. It twists the arms and ankles and turns the head back. Finally they die in a last wretching convulsion…”