Dangerous Desert Plants


Desert conditions are difficult on living things and those that adapt to it are tempting targets for other desert dwellers looking for food and moisture. This being the case, many desert pants have developed the means to protect themselves. Without desert know-how and care, those running afoul of such plants risk injury, drugging or poisoning.

Barrel Cactus

  • Cactus plants protect themselves with sharp spines. A great example is the barrel cactus, which is of the genus Ferocactus, the fero- part coming from the Latin word for fierce. Barrel cacti are, indeed, fierce, with the cylinder- or globe-shaped body of the plant bristling with three- to four-inch spines. The spines are sharp enough that Native Americans used them for sewing. The plant, depending on the species, can grow up to about 10 feet tall. It's the largest cactus found in North America.


  • Though individuals seeking hallucinogenic experiences have ingested this plant, Datura is poisonous--not just the leaves or the flowers or the fruit or the stem, but all of it. Datura blooms from spring through autumn, with the large trumpet-shaped flowers opening in the evening. The flowers as well as the leaves are about six inches long on a plant that grows about two feet tall. Datura produces fruit that, like so many desert plants, possesses spines. The fruits are about 1½ inches across.

Texas Mountain Laurel

  • The Texas mountain laurel is also known as the mescal bean plant. As a shrub, it's a member of the legume family, but like datura, all parts of it are toxic to animals and humans. Unfortunately, the plant also has a reputation as a hallucinogen, which entices some to experiment with the potentially fatal plant. The Texas mountain laurel has fragrant purple flowers, and even the scent is reputed to be toxic. Sheep and goats eating mature foliage in quantities that equaled about 1 percent of the animal's weight had attacks of sickness for up to 12 days, according to the Texas Natural Resource Server's Toxic Plant DataBase.

Silverleaf Nightshade

  • Silverleaf nightshade is often prickly, and both the leaves and fruit are poisonous, containing the toxic agent solanine. When ingested, silverleaf nightshade causes diarrhea, nausea and vomiting and abdominal pain. The ripe fruit is the most dangerous. In certain exacting amounts, the berries are used as part of the process of making asadero, a Mexican goat milk cheese.

Tree Tobacco

  • Tree tobacco is native to South America, but has adapted to life in the southwest United States. Flowers might be white, green, red or yellow, and they open at night. Though its scientific name--Nicotiana glauna--might lead you to believe the leaves of tree tobacco are smokeable, this isn't the case. Poisoning leads to diarrhea, dizziness, altered vision and hearing. Tree tobacco can also cause auditory hallucinations.

Related Searches


Promoted By Zergnet


You May Also Like

  • Poisonous Plants in Southern California

    A poisonous plant is one that causes some sort of negative reaction. Those effects can be mild to life-threatening, depending on the...

  • What Flowers Can I Plant in My Garden for My Tortoise?

    Desert tortoises are herbivores, meaning plant eaters, and when in captivity will munch their way through almost any greenery they encounter. So...

  • What Are Desert Plants?

    Desert plants are those that have acclimatized to the extreme weather conditions found in a hot and dry environment. A desert can...

  • Dangers in Arabian Deserts

    The Arabian Desert is one of the world's largest deserts, covering the majority of the Arabian Peninsula. Most of the desert lies...

  • Animals in the Desert of Utah

    Western Utah is included in the Great Basin Desert. This desert is dominated by Great Basin sagebrush, or Artemisia tridentata, giving it...

  • African Poisonous Plants

    Africa has diverse plant life due to the continent's variety of landscapes. Desert, grassland, forest, thickets and savannas support different types of...

Related Searches

Check It Out

How to Make a Vertical Clay Pot Garden

Is DIY in your DNA? Become part of our maker community.
Submit Your Work!