The Most Poisonous Plant In The World

It's hard to give anything the title of "deadliest" or "most toxic" or "most poisonous," because it's not like we can really ethically test out those titles to see how fast a certain substance might cause death, or measure the suffering of its victims on a scale of one to bleeding out of the eyeballs. We could do it to mice but c'mon, poor mice get enough death handed to them in the name of actual science, it seems like it would be especially cruel to do it just so we can have a tidy list of deadly substances from one to 100. 

So really, which plant gets the title of "most poisonous" is kind of a subjective thing. Do we mean "most poison per square inch" or "highest mortality rate" or "fastest acting" or "easiest to encounter" (some poisonous plants have oil that can kill you through your skin, so...)? For the purposes of this discussion, we're just going to go with what seems to be science's consensus. 

This poisonous plant doesn't mess around

According to Atlas Obscura, North America's most toxic plant is the spotted water hemlock, which incidentally is in the same family as celery, fennel, dill, and parsley. You wouldn't want to add any spotted water hemlock to your salad, though. Death by spotted water hemlock is an awful way to go, complete with convulsions and muscle contractions so violent that when you vomit you won't actually be able to open your mouth in order to let the vomit come out of you, which is something you really don't want to think about too long or try to reenact. 

The Walter White-approved poisonous plant

Right, so we'll avoid that one. Now what about the most deadly plant in the world? That honor (probably) goes to the castor oil plant, which is native to India, Africa, and the Mediterranean, but now also grows wild in parts of the US, including California. Yay. You might remember this plant from Breaking Bad — it's the one that Walter White used to make ricin, the poison that took down Lydia in the finale. 

Ricin is not fiction. 20 micrograms of the stuff can kill a 160 pound man. You don't have to refine it and hide it in a cigarette, either. You can die from chewing on the beans, so you know, don't do that. 

Weirdly, the castor oil plant is also used to make (you guessed it) castor oil, so not everything about this plant is deadly. But for the most part, the moral of this story is, don't pick wild plants and put them in your salad. Or your burrito.