7 Toxic Plants In Australia To Avoid Touching

Toxic Plants

Table of Contents

Leaves Of Three Let Them Be

“If you see the leaves of three, you must always, always, let them be!” is a classic folklore rhyme about identifying toxic plants that will have adverse reactions to humans if touched for any reason by their leaves.

In America, poison ivy is prolific, and hikers know what it looks like and how to avoid it, usually the result of a previous entanglement with the poisonous plant. However, in Australia, poison ivy is not a native plant and is found in only a few known locations. How it got here is still up for debate.

 The rhyme about plants that have a cluster of ‘leaves of three’ being plants to avoid touching at all costs is accurate, and the plant’s triple leaflets are a reliable characteristic that should be used to carefully avoid any of the toxic vines, shrubs and plants found around the world.

As a general rule of thumb, any plant that produces a milky substance is highly likely to be exceptionally deadly to humans if ingested and highly poisonous to us upon skin contact.

If you would like to know more about the itch-inducing poison ivy plant, check out this informative website: https://www.lifehacker.com.au/2019/07/how-to-identify-poison-ivy/#:~:text=Poison%20ivy%20is%20not%20native,the%20leaves%20may%20be%20red.

Toxic Plants Beauty Or Beasts

When we see plants, we generally see either beauty or beasts in the form of weeds. They may seem innocuous, even tempting to caress, but acting on impulse can be surprisingly lethal to humans who decide to touch the wrong species of toxic plants.

 Plants develop toxicity as a defence against predators. Leaves, stems, bark, and seeds can all contain high concentrations of toxic poisons that are harmful if handled, that contact the skin, or that are consumed. Toxicity in any species increases during a drought through the concentration of the chemicals and a lack of water to dilute the toxin strength.

Australia is globally renowned for having the deadliest everything, and the highest numbers of those deadly things and our plants are no exception. Currently, 1000 species of plants in Australia are known to be toxic to animals and humans, causing skin and eye irritation, rashes, discomfort, vomiting and death. Approximately ten per cent of plants in Australia even make cyanide.

Plants to avoid vary from region to region, but no matter where you are, you need to know what they are, what they look like and why you should avoid them.

Visit this website for a comprehensive look at Australia’s top nine offenders to avoid.

Australia’s most poisonous plants

Gympie Gympie (Dendrocnide Moroides)

A member of the nettle family, the Gympie Gympie plant, or ‘giant stinging tree’ as it is more commonly known, can have extremely adverse effects on the unfortunate people who encounter it.

Stinging hairs on the plant’s stems, leaves, and fruit frequently cause an allergic reaction, swelling and searing pain. It is recommended that people working near the plant or visiting where it grows to wear protective gloves and take antihistamine tablets in advance.

Hikers in Queensland are advised to study up on the plant and be able to identify it before venturing out into the majestic but deadly number of National Parks and rainforests for their hiking and camping adventures.

The Nettle Collective

The nettle family includes many species of herbs, shrubs, vines, and small trees, including stinging nettles. We have several native species of stinging nettles in Australia. Many nettle species have stinging hairs that can cause extreme pain on contact when people brush past them while hiking.

Milky Mangrove

Found in Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales, as well as Asia and some Pacific Islands, the milky mangrove grows in areas close to sea level. It can survive dry open space and heavy, constant exposure to sea salt.

Milky mangrove is often referred to by the accurate ‘blind-your-eye-mangrove’ as the milky sap of these toxic plants is highly poisonous. Temporary blindness ensues after contact with a person’s eyes. Other side effects can include skin irritation and blistering.


A common garden plant in Australia, the oleander tree is highly toxic. People who come into contact with these toxic plants may experience mild irritation on their skin, but a greater risk is posed if any part of the plant is ingested, particularly by children, as this can be fatal.

The toxic plants leaves are bitter and give off a milky white sap. It is unlikely anyone would eat the plant; however, the seed pods are enticing to children who desire to open them up and see what is inside, thus covering their hands and fingers in the toxic sap.

Children are drawn to this tree for the pretty bright flowers and the fact that butterflies like to form their chrysalis on the leaves.

Burning oleander also has risks as the plant’s toxicity is captured in the smoke and fumes emitted. Inhaling these fumes or cooking food over a fire of burning oleander poses health risks and potential poisoning.

Deadly Nightshade (Atropa Belladonna)

What child does not love this classic garden favourite? This amazing plant has numerous aliases longer than a politician’s list of lies! Commonly referred to as ‘devil’s berries’ or ‘death cherries’, the deadly nightshade plant and its ripe blackberries contain tropane alkaloids that cause hysteria, hallucinations, erratic behaviour, and delirium.

 It was once widely used to dilate the pupils of ‘harlots’ to entice men into sexual congress with ‘bedroom eyes’, one of the poison’s side effects. Do not try it at home as it killed plenty of them with misuse and abuse.

These toxic plants grow to about one metre tall. Like Angel’s trumpets, deadly nightshades are common garden plants not native to Australia but found in pretty much every state and suburb.

Ingestion of a single leaf or about 20 berries can be fatal to adults, and smaller doses can cause rapid death in children. Toddlers who manage to consume these enticing little berries are often found dead within minutes of consuming them. If they are in your garden and you have small children, educate and supervise them at all times.

Angel’s Trumpets

A truly stunning plant to have in the garden and behold! Their large, billowing pastel flowers give rise to their name. Angel’s trumpets are medium-sized trees or shrubs with strong, thin trunks and red, white, orange, or pink flowers. Despite their pleasant appearance and aroma, these common garden plants are highly toxic, particularly their leaves and seeds. Rich in alkaloids such as scopolamine and hyoscyamine, the trumpets can cause diarrhoea, confusion, migraines, paralysis and even death if ingested by humans.

It is strongly recommended that you resist the urge to place your nose into the flower and inhale the scent of these toxic plants. Despite the adage suggesting we should all ‘stop and smell the roses, Angel’s trumpets are not a rose, and you should not tempt fate!

Strychnine Tree

Strychnine trees are toxic plants native to South East Asia and Australia. They bear small, yellow/orange-coloured fruits with highly poisonous seeds that are neurotoxic in composition. Neurotoxins poison the body’s nervous system, causing convulsions, paralysis and even death and have been used by natives the globe over for a wide range of purposes, from medicine and murder.

The tree’s blossoms and bark are also poisonous, containing strychnine and brucine alkaloids. History has this tree to thank for stopping the bubonic plague from spreading further than it did, thanks to strychnine killing the infected rats when they ate the seeds.

Strychnine is used today in homoeopathic and herbal medicines at a low level and is used to promote appetite and aid digestion in humans. Never consume any product of this tree without seeking professional advice first.

Strychnine is still the most effective natural rat poison in use globally.

What Plant Can Kill You Instantly

The Indian suicide tree called Cerbera odollum, has been described as the perfect murder weapon not likely to be tested for in a routine post mortem. The toxicity of Australia’s native Cerbera manghas is less well understood, and equally as deadly, possessing the same cardiac poisons as its Indian cousin.

First Aid Treatment For Stinging Plants

· First, washing the exposed skin with soap and warm water within 10 minutes of the initial contact can greatly reduce the chance of an allergic reaction.

· Remove any contaminated clothing to prevent further or repeat contact with plant oils, and either wash it thoroughly in hot water or dispose of it in the rubbish.

· To control itchiness, apply calamine lotion, baking soda, or colloidal oatmeal to your skin.

· Take an antihistamine: antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can help you take your mind off the itchy feeling and induce drowsiness.

· Take a cool bath or shower

· Apply a cold, wet compress on the rash for 15 to 30 minutes at a time, several times a day.


When To See Your Doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice any of these problems:

· Temperature over 38 degrees Celsius

· Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

· Chest pain

· Intense muscle cramps or spasms

· Fix dilated pupils

· Pus on the rash

· Soft yellow scabs

· Itching that gets worse or keeps you up at night

· The rash spreads to your eyes, mouth, or genital area

· Your rash doesn’t resolve within a few weeks

Your doctor may prescribe an oral corticosteroid, such as prednisone. They may also give you a steroid cream to apply to your skin. You may need to take an oral antibiotic if the rash becomes infected.

Are You First Aid Qualified

There has never been a legitimate excuse for not knowing basic First Aid or CPR. Everyone should learn how to save a life from a young age and treat any emergency situation that arises in the initial stage. We highly recommend you visit our FACE website if you have never gained your First Aid certification or undertaken any First Aid education. You can read up on over 100 topics that will instantly improve your First Aid knowledge and prepare you for taking one of our nationally recognised courses from the comfort of your home.

FACE offers a range of options for you to gain your First Aid certification. While visiting our website, check out our Blog page and take the Quiz for a challenge and fun.

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