This article was originally published on Vacation101
The world is full of plants and animals we would love to touch. Petting zoos, for instance, have been built around this assumption. But there are some plants and animals that we should resist touching with every fiber of our being. If we don’t, we could end up unfathomably sick — sometimes even dead. Read on to find out which are the absolute worst and those that you should never, ever touch ...
This is one of the common plants many of us know to avoid. Why? Well, because it’s like poison ivy but 1,000 times worse. While it’ll take your skin some time to react to the oils present in the plant, when they react, they will react hard. The result will not be fun.
When your skin reacts to poison oak, it is very similar to how it reacts to poison ivy — you break out into a horrible rash. The rash can even spread as the oil is exposed to more skin. Ultimately, the result is horrible and can last for up to several weeks. We will definitely recommend that you avoid this one.
Hemlock is one of those things that should ring alarm bells in your head. It is, in fact, the plant responsible for the death of Socrates. Having to drink from a chalice brimmed with the stuff, the plant exudes chemicals that will assuredly lead to death. No fun. The reasons for this plant’s toxicity, other than the fight to keep potential predators away, are many.
All parts of this plant are considered extremely toxic. People have even been reported dead after ingesting game birds that had eaten the hemlock seeds. Where you’ll find this plant, then (just to be safe), is in places like North America, Europe, and western Asia. If you’re traveling in these areas, you might want to stay on watch. Don’t want to go out like Socrates.
Sometimes you just have to try and get rid of some bees. They’ve invaded your house, your personal space, and you want them gone. Unfortunately, some of these bees are not looking forward to such tactics. And when you try to get rid of them, the result is not going to be good. This is the case with the Africanized bee.
These bees, having initially been interbred with another version of honey bee, became extremely hostile. And, if provoked, they will definitely cause a bad time. When these bees get upset, they will follow the provocateur into water, caves, or just about any other place they would choose to hide. Let’s hope you just don’t get followed.
Despite its rather unintimidating name, Elder is the name of a plant that will definitely instantiate some death. But even given these potential terrors, the flower of the plant is commonly used as a flavoring or in medicine. The seeds, stems, and roots are all poisonous in the plant. When these are ingested in a sufficient amount, trouble will follow.
What these different parts of the plant will do is create a buildup of cyanide in the body. And with that, extreme nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and even a coma can follow. Given that each of these things is more undesirable than the last, you’d better not reach and touch this thing. And you definitely shouldn’t eat it.
Oleander is considered by many a beautiful and easy-to-manage plant for gardening. It is, however, also considered extremely toxic. It is, like other of the plants on this list, a part of the Apocynaceae family — a family that is highly toxic to those who would like to eat it. The thing is basically a giant poisonous flower disguised as something normal. Bleak.
What makes the plant so poisonous is all of the toxins that it contains. These range from artifacts that will induce cardiac arrest to those that will induce an unyielding nausea and malaise. Ultimately, the thing is better left avoided. So, if you’re meandering about in the woods or gardens or North America and Europe, we’d suggest you watch out.
The Kissing Bug
Despite its name, this is not a bug you would want to kiss. The thing comes surprisingly well-endowed with horrible diseases. And what’s worse is that they have a penchant to suck human blood. Yikes. Anyway, the disease that these things carry with the most punch is called the Chagas disease.
The disease is carried by a parasite within the bug, Trypanosoma cruzi. What makes the thing especially gross is that you catch the virus by the defecation of the bug — if it gets into the spot near where they bit, you are likely out of luck. The worst effects of the disease mostly revolve around cardiac problems. Let’s avoid the kiss of the kissing bug, then.
Anything that is the bane of wolves is likely something that you should avoid. Wolves are, after all, extremely astute apex predators, and if something is bothersome to them, it is likely also bothersome to us. And so it goes for the wolfsbane — one of the other terribly poisonous plants on this list.
Recently, for instance, a man was reportedly killed after having performed some routine gardening on the estate of an employer. After having brushed by a few of the flowering plants, he collapsed on the grounds of the estate. After having been rushed to the hospital, the man died from multiple organ failures a few days later.
Jimson weed (also known as the Devil’s Snare) is a viciously poisonous plant that you can find in places like Central America and other places with temperate year-round climates. Oddly enough, some people abuse the plant recreationally as a drug to induce hallucinogenic effects. This is, however, extraordinarily dangerous and ill-advised.
The plant causes its associated problems through the toxins that it contains. These range from mildly toxic to life-endingly bad. To get more technical, the names of some of these chemicals are atropine, hyoscyamine, and scopolamine. Each of these three chemicals is enough to interfere with brain communication. This is bad.
Poison Dart Frog
Central America is home to some of the most biodiverse lands around. And, as you may have guessed, much of this flora and fauna is poisonous. Here, we have one such poisonous animal: the poison dart frog — called this because of the thin coat of neurotoxins that surrounds it, the thing is definitely not something you’d like to touch.
And what, exactly, would happen if you were to touch it? Well, you would get a big heaping wade of death. OK, not really. It’s possible that you could survive. However, the thing actually is very deadly. Their brightly colored bodies make them what biologists call “aposematic” — meaning that their bright colors indicate to other animals to stay away. You should take note.
Hogweed is likely one of the lesser-known untouchable species on the list. But this isn’t necessarily good. And for that, we will try and raise some public awareness. The hogweed is a large and domineering plant that can grow up to 14 feet tall. That’s fairly large. But other than its domineering height, it has domineering and poisonous sap.
This sap, if it touches the skin, will induce a horrible patch of blisters on the exposed skin. Moreover, the skin will rash over. Yikes. Given that neither of these are things that we consider indicative of a good time, it’s best we avoid the plant completely. If we don’t, we’ll end up wishing we were dead. Oh yeah, and if you get the stuff in your eyes, it can make you blind.
Given this plant’s close affinity to the word “purge,” you might expect what you ought to do if you accidentally ingest the stuff. Yes, the answer is that you should purge. The plant contains poisonous chemicals in its sap such that when you touch the stuff, it’ll seep into your skin and cause some problems.
These problems range from the mild to the severe. While many of the other plants on this list are far more severe in how damaging they’ll be to your body, the spurge is still worthy of mentioning. With a few light touches, the thing will induce skin redness, swelling, and blistering. Yuck. Because of this, we’ll advise you to never touch it.
Sometimes when you see a pretty bug, you’ll want to touch it. We certainly feel that impulse over here. However, with many of these bugs, we need to know whether we can touch them. In this case, we can’t. The puss moth (given its name because of its resemblance to a cat), while it may look furry and indelibly adorable, is anything but.
The nice-looking fur that adorns the larva is actually a secret set of spikes designed to kill and maim. When pricked by these, they cause a horrible pain in the place where they stung. The pain will only grow and spread with time. Your body’s reaction might entail difficulty breathing, along with other things like headache and nausea. We’d say it’s best to avoid.
Rhubarb is probably familiar to you in some form or another. You probably most likely know it from its role in your grandmother’s famous rhubarb pie. If not, you probably know it from somebody else’s. Either way, the primary ingredient to these pies is actually quite toxic. The primary toxic part of the plant is its leaves.
While cooking, then, you’ll definitely want to make sure to get all of the leaves and throw them swiftly into the garbage. Somehow you’ll have to manage to do this without actually touching the stuff. Perhaps use gloves. Maybe conscript your worst enemy into handling the stuff for you. Whatever you do, don’t touch the leaves.
Despite its rather eloquent name (it just rolls off the tongue), belladonna is a poisonous plant that, if ingested, can result in everything from disorientation to hallucinations and death. While you might not be familiar with this plant under its prettier name, you might know it under its more infamous alternative: nightshade.
The subject of numerous fairy tales and folklore, this plant is often fictitiously used as a way in which to poison an enemy. Let’s not allow for that enemy to be yourself or someone close to you. If you see this plant in the wild, stop what you’re doing and run immediately. If you don’t, it’ll likely find you and give you its poisonous shade.
Brazilian Wandering Spider
Most of us don’t have strong impulses to reach out and touch arachnids. However, the occasional arachnologist will, in fact, have such urges. Fortunately for them, most of the spiders that we know exist will not kill you from a bite. Some, however, will. And this spider, the Brazilian wandering spider, will do so quite effectively.
The bite from the spider, without antivenom, can quickly yield death. It does, however, depend on exactly how much venom you were injected with. What makes matters worse is that these spiders are loath to sit around and wait for prey. Instead, they actively hunt by scouring the jungle floors. You might want to watch out, then, if you have a thing for spiders.
Local to many parts of the U.S. and elsewhere, poison ivy is a plant you definitely never want to touch. Because the thing is covered in an oil that will induce your skin to feel all sorts of terrible, you never actually want to make contact with this plant.
The horrible toxin is referred to as urushiol. The way in which it induces its horrible reaction is through the body’s immune system. In effect, it causes an allergic reaction in the skin, which in turn provokes a rash and sometimes gross puss-filled sores. We’d suggest you avoid.
You may know about castor beans from the oil they produce. These oils are used in all sorts of things, from industrial lubricants to proposed panaceas. However, the stuff also contains one of the most deadly toxins known to Homo sapiens: ricin. And ricin — being present in large enough quantities — can easily kill humans.
Fortunately, to get the stuff into your system to a point where it would kill you, would take chewing a handful of the seeds. So, don’t do that and you’ll be fine. But we’d go a step further and just say avoid the plant entirely. That way, you don’t have any close calls. We like to play things from the safe side.
The tsetse fly, despite its cute name, is one of the most virulently toxic animals on the planet. And why, exactly, is this? Well, because it harbors a horrible disease, of course! And the disease that the fly carries is the sleeping sickness. The disease can induce a tremendous amount of pain and suffering.
One of the worst symptoms of the sleeping sickness is the extreme lethargy that accompanies it (hence the name). But another unfortunate side effect is death. And given that most of us view death as something undesirable, it’s a fly that you should avoid if you can. So, if you’re traveling the equatorial lands of Africa, we suggest you stay on the lookout.
The death cap is a species of mushroom that you should definitely avoid. This is especially true if you’re a mushroom hunter looking for the regrettably identical Paddy Straw mushroom. The utmost caution is required if you’re one of these mushroom tasters. If you are, however, you likely already knew you had to implement such caution.
Anyway, for those of us just casually observing nature, these deadly toxic mushrooms have a few telltale signs. Among these are the distinctly off-white cap. The cap will also have a slight green or yellow tint to it. If you see any of these signs in a nearby mushroom, then, exercise caution when walking around it. And definitely do not eat it.
Amanita mushrooms are another of those fungi species that we should avoid with all our might. While the species is not deadly to all species of biology, it can be deadly to us. This is especially true if we eat the stuff. To recognize the fungus, we just look for red with white spots. This is the main sign the mushroom is poisonous.
The reason the mushroom is considered deadly is because it harbors a horrible toxin called amatoxin. This toxin, if ingested, will slowly shut down the functioning of the kidney and liver. And, in case you were unaware, the functioning of these two vital organs is essential for the continuance of that thing we call “life.” So, we’d say try not to touch these mushrooms.
Japanese Giant Hornet
The Japanese giant hornet is aptly named — it is giant, it is Japanese, and it is a hornet. And, as you might expect from any animal that’s giant and has a poisonous stinger, you probably shouldn’t go around touching it. That is, unless you like to get stung by such horribly vicious things.
Anyway, the Japanese giant hornet is an unusual breed of bee. Rather than its more diminutive cousins, this bee grew to be around two inches in length. That’s fairly large, considering that the thing can fly and attack you. If you see one of these buzzing through the air, then, you might want to turn away and run immediately.
This plant, Clathrus archeri, has a more common name: the octopus stinkhorn. And why, exactly, was it given such a name? Well, in part it is because of what the thing looks like. If you squint your eyes and are suffering from an abundance of cataracts, the thing will look like some breed of octopus.
If you don’t do (or have) any of these things, the fungus will simply look like a weird fungus. Another telling name for the species, however, is the “Devil’s Fingers.” From this cute little nickname, you might be able to infer that the species is, if messed with, bad. And here, all it takes to trigger an unfavorable reaction is a touch. We’d recommend you stay away.
When a plant is given the nickname “Devil’s Club,” you have got to expect it’s got a deadly touch. And with this plant, you would not be wrong. The devil’s club can be found in many places across the U.S., including, most notably, the Pacific Northwest.
What makes the Devil’s Club so awful is that it is covered in all of these noxious and toxic spines. A little touch to these and you’ll suffer an unfortunate encroachment of pain and shock in the affected area. Given this uncomfortable truth, we’d suggest you avoid touching.
It is often said of nature that it is “red in tooth and claw.” What this means is that it is vicious and unapologetically ruthless. So, when you have a fungus like the bleeding tooth, you expect some blood in the tooth and claw. Here, it doesn’t let us down.
The bleeding tooth was in part given its name because of its apparent bloody disposition. The fungus, which is covered in a red liquid that looks conspicuously similar to blood drops, actually isn’t all that poisonous. Still, however, we’d like to recommend that you avoid it.
Porcupines evolved a way to avoid getting eaten by prospective predators. Most of us know their strategy without ever having to deal with it personally — they shoot out their quills into nearby predator species. The result is no fun for the newly spiked animal.
Here, however, we have a porcupine tomato. This species of plant is similar to the porcupine in that it doesn’t really want you to touch it. If you do, you will end up just like that unfortunate animal that tried for the porcupine. Stuck and uncomfortable.
Indian Red Scorpion
The Indian red scorpion is not one of those scorpions that you get close to and cuddle with. Whereas other scorpions might exude a type of mammalian affiliation with you and your pets, this one is too temperamental for that. OK, just kidding. We’d go so far as to say that not a single scorpion on Earth (regardless of species) will take to cuddling with you and your loved ones.
But even given the general dispositions scorpions hold toward us and other mammalian species, the Indian red scorpion is particularly untouchable. And why, exactly, is this? Well, because it is extraordinarily deadly, of course! A few stings from this bad boy and you will be immediately sent to the hospital — or, even more bleakly, the morgue.
The rhododendron is a plant that many of us see in our daily lives. The beautiful flowering plant is found commonly across the world in places like Asia. Within the leaves of this beautiful flowering plant, however, you will find a toxin that is very, very poisonous.
When you ingest such a flower, the results — despite the flower’s gorgeous outer appearance — will not be pretty. Some of the symptoms include things like vomiting, a slowed heart rate, and an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion. Let’s just try and stay away from this one, shall we?
The blue-ringed octopus is something that many of us might like to touch. The thing is pretty, small, and some might say adorable. However, the blue-ringed octopus is blue and ringed for a reason. And this reason, as you likely could have guessed, is because it is extraordinarily deadly. Yikes.
The blue-ringed octopus is like the poison dart frog in that it has adapted aposematic coloration. Ultimately, what this means is that the thing is trying to warn predators of how dangerous it is to be messed with. Anybody who’s anybody, then, should heed this warning and stay far, far away. Otherwise you might end up in a bad, bad place.
With a nickname like “Angel’s Trumpet,” you’d think this plant wouldn’t be all that bad to touch. And on this count, you’d be wrong. While the plant was given its name because of its golden-yellow appearance and trumpet-like shape, the flower could also be said to jettison you straight to heaven.
You’ll find the angel’s trumpets in South America. What makes them so deadly is that their leaves contain a deadly type of alkaloid poison. The poison can induce everything from nausea to hallucinations. If you see the angel’s trumpet, turn around and run.
The tarantula hawk is one of the most formidable species on the planet. Why? Because it takes to tarantulas as if they’re nothing special. And, if you’ve ever seen a tarantula, you’ll know that this is no small feat. Treating a tarantula as if it’s just a small tasty treat that can harbor your babies while they’re growing is quite impressive.
But more than just impressive — it’s impressively disturbing. Charles Darwin once referenced species like the tarantula hawk as reason for horror. Seeing such a thing made him think of nature and the powers it holds as callous and indifferent. And he wasn’t wrong in this. Any way you spin it, the tarantula hawk is not something to touch.
The white snakeroot is just as bad as it sounds — very snakish. Common to many parts of North America, the plant is awful and many people don’t even realize it. While the plant is a common killer of cattle, fewer deaths have occurred in humans.
The primary reason for this disparity is that humans don’t too often eat the plant. If cows do eat the stuff and survive, however, the milk that they produce can contain dangerous amounts of it. You might want to watch out for this horrible plant, then.
Given its name for its resemblance to the rosary beads of Catholicism, these peas are just as poisonous as they look. Their red, diminutive bodies pack quite the little punch. And, well, if you were to eat them, you would end up in quite the terrible situation.
The poison that these little peas contain is referred to as abrin. You’ll find the stuff all over the place in India and Indonesia. So, if you're looking to avoid a giant heap of death from some luridly red peas, we’d suggest that you avoid them altogether. Your alive body will thank us.
The bullet ant is one of the most formidable insect foes that exists. With a pair of mandibles that can grasp and hold with a disturbing amount of pressure, the thing is like an alligator in the world of the tiny. This, when combined with the fact that it can also sting, makes the thing horribly untouchable.
But another thing that makes this ant not something you would want to touch is the fact that it runs, like all ants, in colonies. One sting or bite from one of these ants, then, can likely trigger a full-blown assault from thousands upon thousands of worker ants. The result would be a deluge, a fusillade, a bad time. Please don’t touch.
Named after an Australian town in Queensland, the Gympie-gympie is one of the most notorious plants on planet Earth. The folklore goes something like this: people who stumble into the stuff will sometimes hurl themselves off of cliffs rather than to deal with the pain.
Quite the horror story. Fortunately, the stuff is confined to openings in the rainforest where most of us (unless you're some rugged Australian type) don't find ourselves. If we do find ourselves in one of these locations, however, we should definitely never touch the Gympie-Gympie.
Florida is home to numerous things that we normal folk should never touch. The list extends from horribly vicious alligators to other swamp-creatures that lay lurking in the brackish waters. But other than the obvious, Florida has some other things that we should never touch.
One such thing in this category is the Manchineel, an evergreen tree. Living around the Caribbean coastline, this tree is quite dangerous. It's Spanish name, for instance, manzanilla de la muerte means "little apple of death." If that doesn't scare you from touching it, I don't know what will.
The Box Jellyfish
Many of the animals and plants we talked about so far are easy to see. Because of this, they are at least somewhat easy to avoid touching. Here, however, we home in on a species that is so diminutive that it is not exactly easy to see. Be careful around this guy.
The box jellyfish, known around the shores of Indonesia and Australia, is a tiny little jellyfish with one of the most notorious stings on the planet. Getting stung by this guy in the water can induce a full-blown paralysis. Given this, we highly recommend that you never touch.
The Stinging Nettle
The stinging nettle is one of the more commonly known plants that you should never touch. The thing, when touched, will induce an allergic reaction that is distinctly less than favorable. Because of this, we recommend that you avoid it completely.
The reason the stinging nettle is so awful is because of the needles that surround its leaves and stem. When these prick into the skin, they provoke a reaction that will cause swelling, itchiness, and pain for days on end. Do yourself a favor and please avoid touching the stinging nettle.
With a name like noseburn you know that you should probably never touch it. Why would you want your nose burned? But the plant has another name that is equally foreboding: finger-rot. This isn't, in other words, a plant that you would want to touch.
The noseburn plant, like a few others we have talked about, is covered in tiny little hairs that, if they break off into the skin, will cause tremendous irritation. Fortunately, relative to other plants, the pain from this guy will only last a few hours. Consider yourself lucky.