Plants basically poison on contact, ingestion, or by absorption or inhalation. They cause painful skin irritations upon contact, they cause internal poisoning when eaten, and they poison through skin absorption or inhalation in respiratory system. Many edible plants have deadly relatives and look-alikes. Preparation for military missions includes learning to identify those harmful plants in the target area. Positive identification of edible plants will eliminate the danger of accidental poisoning.
There is no room for experimentation where plants are concerned, especially in unfamiliar territory.
Castor bean, castor-oil plant, palma Christi
Spurge (Euphorbiaceae) Family
Description: The castor bean is a semiwoody plant with large, alternate, starlike leaves that grows as a tree in tropical regions and as an annual in temperate regions. Its flowers are very small and inconspicuous. Its fruits grow in clusters at the tops of the plants. CAUTION
All parts of the plant are very poisonous to eat. The seeds are large and may be mistaken for a beanlike food.
Habitat and Distribution: This plant is found in all tropical regions and has been introduced to temperate regions.
Mahogany (Meliaceae) Family
Description: This tree has a spreading crown and grows up to 14 meters tall. It has altemate, compound leaves with toothed leaflets. Its flowers are light purple with a dark center and grow in ball-like masses. It has marble-sized fruits that are light orange when first formed but turn lighter as they become older.
All parts of the tree should be considered dangerous if eaten. Its leaves are a natural insecticide and will repel insects from stored fruits and grains. Take care not to eat leaves mixed with the stored food.
Habitat and Distribution: Chinaberry is native to the Himalayas and eastern Asia but is now planted as an omamental tree throughout the tropical and subtropical regions. It has been introduced to the southern United States and has escaped to thickets, old fields, and disturbed areas.
Cowhage, cowage, cowitch
Leguminosae (Fabaceae) Family
Description: A vinelike plant that has oval leaflets in groups of three and hairy spikes with dull purplish flowers. The seeds are brown, hairy pods.
Contact with the pods and flowers causes irritation and blindness if in the eyes.
Death camas, death lily
Lily (Liliaceae) Family
Description: This plant arises from a bulb and may be mistaken for an onionlike plant. Its leaves are grasslike. Its flowers are six-parted and the petals have a green, heart-shaped structure on them. The flowers grow on showy stalks above the leaves.
All parts of this plant are very poisonous. Death camas does not have the onion smell. Habitat and Distribution: Death camas is found in wet, open, sunny habitats, although some species favor dry, rocky slopes. They are common in parts of the western United
States. Some species are found in the eastern United States and in parts of the North
American western subarctic and eastern Siberia.
Vervain (Verbenaceae) Family
Descrlptlon: Lantana is a shrublike plant that may grow up to 45 centimeters high. It has opposite, round leaves and flowers borne in flat-topped clusters. The flower color
(which varies in different areas) maybe white, yellow, orange, pink, or red. It has a dark blue or black berrylike fruit. A distinctive feature of all parts of this plant is its strong scent.
All parts of this plant are poisonous if eaten and can be fatal. This plant causes dermatitis in some individuals.
Habitat and Distribution: Lantana is grown as an omamental in tropical and temperate areas and has escaped cultivation as a weed along roads and old fields.
Spurge (Euphorbiaceae) Family
Description: Manchineel is a tree reaching up to 15 meters high with