Killer Seeds

Spiky, reddish flowers sit along the banks of an African river. A gentle wind blows their ripe, purplish‑brown seeds. Some tumble to the ground.


Castor beans are the deadly part of the world’s most poisonous plant.

A hungry bird wanders by. The castor bean seeds sparkle. But, the bird will not eat these seeds. It knows they can kill.

Castor bean plants came from Africa. Now they are grown in gardens around the world. The plant is beautiful. But, it is full of poison. A small handful of seeds can kill a person. Yet, the plant needs this poison. It protects the seeds from being eaten by animals.

The Sting Is the Thing

It’s morning in a rain forest in Australia. Sunlight shines across some heart‑shaped leaves. Each leaf of the gympie‑gympie tree is covered with sparkling fuzz.

Watch out! The fuzz is made up of needle‑like hairs. Each is filled with a painful poison. Touch the plant, and you’ll get stung. The hairs enter your skin and break off. They are trapped.

Some animals can eat these leaves with no effect. But, humans can suffer a terrible pain. The plant doesn’t do lasting damage. Still, it’s best to wash the needles from the skin right away.


The needles on the leaves of the gympie‑gympie can really sting.