Plants and mushrooms (fungi) poisonous to people

This section of the website contains descriptions and photos of a number of local plants and fungi (mushrooms and toadstools) that can be poisonous to people. It is not a complete list. If a poisoning or suspected poisoning occurs contact the Poisons Information Centre without delay.

Some of these plants are grown in home gardens, some grow wild in the forest or field and some are common weeds. They all pose some risk if consumed or, in some cases, handled by people, however the risk varies from species to species. A few of the plants and fungi identified in this website have been known to cause permanent disability or even death in the past, whilst others have only been reported as causing rashes, vomiting or other unpleasant (but not life threatening) reactions. Key Symbols have therefore been used in this website as an indication of relative risk.

Toxicity categories with key symbols

Category 1 - Extremely toxicExtremely toxic, has been known to cause injury, permanent disability, and in some cases, death. Do not plant. Removal and disposal of existing plants is strongly recommended.

Category 2 - Potentially toxicPotentially toxic, depending on the level of exposure. Should not be grown in preschools, playgrounds, child care settings, and access should be restricted in homes with toddlers or young children (including homes where young children may visit, ie grandparents). Exclusion (such as fencing) from children’s play areas is recommended. Parents and carers should supervise carefully.
Category 3 - IrritantIrritant to skin or eyes from sap, prickles, spines or stinging hairs. Keep out of reach of toddlers and children. (Many common prickly or spiny plants now have non-spiny varieties available).

Category 4 - IrritantPollen or perfume from this plant can cause respiratory problems. Not an asthma friendly plant.

It is important to recognise that toddlers, in particular, may be at greater risk given their habit of tasting everything and their relatively small body size.

This website is based on the publication Plants Poisonous to People in Queensland jointly produced by Queensland Health and the Environmental Protection Agency in August 2005.

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Poisonous plants

  • Philodendron

Philodendron

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Rhaphidophora

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Primula

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Iris tectorum

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Asparagus fern

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Plants and mushrooms – resources

Websites

Books

Auld,B.A. & Medd, R.W. (1987). Weeds: An illustrated guide to the weeds of Australia. Inkata Press
Bailey,L.H. (1963). Manual of Cultivated Plants. The Macmillan Company.
Barr, A. (1988). Traditional Bush Medicines: an aboriginal pharmacopeia. Greenhouse Publications P/L.
Behl, P.N. & Captain, R.M. (1966) Skin Irritant and Sensitizing Plants. New Dehli.
Bruneton, J. (1999). Toxic Plants Dangerous to Humans and Animals. Intercept Ltd, UK.
Burrows, George E. & Tyrl, Ronald J. (2001). Toxic Plants of North America. Iowa State University Press.
Chevallier, Andrew (1996). The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants: A practical reference guide to over 500 key herbs and their medicinal uses. Dorling Kindersley, London.
Cooper, M.R. & Johnson, A.W. (1984). Poisonous Plants in Britain & their Effects on Animals & Man. Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food, Reference book 161.
Covacevich, J., Davie, P. and Pearn, J. (Eds) (1987). Toxic Plants and Animals: A Guide for Australia. Queensland Museum, Brisbane.
Everett, T.H. (1981). The New York Botanical Garden Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Horticulture Vol.2. Garland Publishing Inc., New York, USA.
Everist, S.L. (1981). Poisonous Plants of Australia. Angus and Robertson, Australia.
Forster,P.I “A putative treatment for euphorbia sap-burn in humans” Cactus and Succulent Journal (US) Vol. 71 (1999) No.4 p218
Griffiths, Mark (1994). Index of Garden Plants. The Royal Horticultural Society. MacMillan Press Ltd.
Harden, G.J. (ed.) (1993). Flora of New South Wales Vol.4. NSW University Press.
Jackes, B.R. (1992). Poisonous Plants in Northern Australian Gardens. James Cook University of North Queensland, Department of Botany.
Jones, D.L. (1986). Ornamental Rainforest Plants in Australia. Reed Books, Australia
Jones, D. (1990). Palms in Australia. Reed Books Pty Ltd, Balgowlah, New South Wales.
Jones, D.L. (1993). Cycads of the World. Reed Publications, Australia
Irvine, F.R. (1961). Woody Plants of Ghana: with special reference to their uses. Oxford University Press, London.
Krempin, J.L. (1983). 1000 Decorative Plants. Rigby Publishers.
Lampe,C. & Collet, F. (1989). Field Guide to Weeds in Australia. Inkata Press.
Lampe, K.F., McCann, M. (1985). AMA Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants. American Medical Association Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Lassak, E.V. & McCarthy, T. (2001). Australian Medicinal Plants. New Holland Publishers (Aus) P/L.
Macoboy, S. (1985). What indoor plant is that? Landsdowne Press, Sydney, Australia.
Mitchell, J. and Rook, A. (1979). Botanical Dermatology: Plants and Plant Products Injurious to the Skin. Greengrass Vancouver.
McKenzie, R. (2012). Australia’s Poisonous Plants, Fungi and Cyanobacteria, A Guide to Species of Medical and Veterinary Importance. CSIRO Publishing, Australia.
Monaghan,N. & McMaugh,J. (1987). Agfact P7.6.41 Department of Agriculture NSW. “Rhus – an urban weed”
Moore, D.M. (1983). Flora of Tierra de Fuego
Mors, Walter B.; Rizzini, Carlos Toledo; Pereira, Nuno A. Ed. De Felipps, Robert A. (2000). Medicinal Plants of Brazil. Book No. 6: Medicinal Plants of the World. Reference Publications Inc.
Morton, J.F. (1982). Plants Poisonous to People in Florida and Other Warm Areas. Southeastern Printing Co. Inc. Florida, USA.
Oakman, H. (1996). Harry Oakman’s Shrubs: the complete guide to shrubs for tropical & subtropical gardens. Univ. of Queensland Press, Brisbane.
Rätsch, Christian (2005). The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and its applications. Park Street Press.
Retief, E. & Herman, P.P.J. (1997). Plants of the Northern Provinces of South Africa: Keys and diagnostic characters. Strelitzia 6. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
Schultes, Richard E. & Raffauf, Robert F. (1990). The Healing Forest: Medicinal & Toxic Plants of the North West Amazonia. Dioscorides Press
Stanley, T.D. & Ross, E.M. (1983). Flora of south-eastern Queensland, Vol. 1, 2 & 3. Qld Dept. Primary Industries.
Traditional Aboriginal Medicines in the Northern Territory of Australia. (1993) Aboriginal Communities of the Northern Territory, Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory.
van der Vossen, H.A.M & Wessel, M. (Eds.) (2000). Prosea: Plant Resources of SE Asia No.16: Stimulants. Backhuys Publishing, Leiden 2000
van Wyk, B. , Gericke, N. (2000). People’s Plants: A guide to useful plants of Southern Africa. Briza Publications.
Watt, J.M., Breyer-Brandwijk, M.G. (1962). The Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of Southern and Eastern Africa. 2nd edn E.&S.Livingstone Ltd.