Which are the most poisonous plants in my garden? The yew has to be a strong contender. The yew trees have started to shed their berries now and the ground beneath the trees is covered with bright red fruit, but although it looks lethal this is the only part of the yew which isn’t poisonous and the birds love them. It’s the leaves which are poisonous, but they are more dangerous to horses and cattle than to us. One of the nastiest plants in my garden is the Echium pininana, whose stems are covered in little hairs which will cause severe blistering if touched. They look innocent but it’s a mistake to stroke them.
The prize probably goes to the Brugmansia, pictured here in the Orangery. As a flowering plant the Brugmansia is good value, producing flowers several times a year and giving off the most beautiful scent in the evening. But all parts of it are fearsomely toxic. In South America it was used by tribesmen to drug slaves and children before they were buried alive with their dead lord. And one thing you shouldn’t do with the leaves is make a cup of tea from them. According to the Journal of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience a young man who drank a single cup of Brugmansia tea became temporarily insane and cut off his penis and his tongue.