Some ppoisonous plants look like edible plantsand can be confused with the latter when pickings in nature but also in the garden or vegetable patch. Therefore, collecting plants for consumption is not without its risks.
The ANSES (Food Safety Agency) and the Poison Control Centers thus identify an average of 250 cases per year of confusion of poisonous plants with edible plants with potentially serious or even fatal consequences. Their latest alert concerns serious poisoning following the consumption of datura leaves : four people from the same family had prepared and consumed in a cooked dish datura leaves (Datura stramonium).
Confusion with horned tetragon leaves
However, these leaves have been confused with leaves of the horned tetragon collected in their vegetable garden. “The intoxicated people thought they had cultivated of the horned tetragon (Tetragonia tetragonoides), a plant also called “New Zealand spinach”, or “Summer spinach”.
Considered as a so-called “forgotten” vegetable, the horned tetragon has experienced renewed interest in recent years, “says ANSES. People quickly showed signs of severe intoxication requiring hospitalization, in intensive care for each of them. If the clinical course was favorable for the latter, one of them required prolonged medical follow-up.
The people had sown seeds purchased in bags from a botanical store, but they did not grow when expected. Noting, a year later, small shoots where they had originally been sown the seeds of the horned tetragon, they transplanted these shoots which were in fact datura having grown involuntarily.
A recognition sheet put online by ANSES and INRAE indicates that datura is a wild annual plant from 40 cm to more than 1m high which grows easily throughout the territory, in cultivated fields, wasteland, waste land, rubble as well as in vegetable gardens: it is a species present throughout France, expanding.
The horned tetragon is, for its part, an annual plant reaching 20-50 cm high and it is a species naturalized only on the sands and rocks of the coast (Brittany, Var, Corsica), rare and cultivated in vegetable gardens elsewhere in France.
To distinguish them clearly,you must know that jimsonweed datura has of large leaves (3-24 cm) oval in outline, with unevenly toothed edges while the horned tetragon has smaller leaves (2-11 cm), entire (without teeth), diamond-triangular in shape.
Moreover, thethe jimsonweed datura has large white flowers (6-11 cm) funnel-shaped although they are yellowish-green and inconspicuous in the leaf axils in the Horned Tetragon.
Finally, the datura has an erect habit and can reach more than 1 meter in height, while the horned tetragon has a recumbent or ascending habit not exceeding 20 to 50 cm in height.
According to ANSES, “datura is sometimes sown at the end of a row of potatoes to attract and poison Colorado beetle larvae in an ecological control approach.
What are the symptoms of datura poisoning?
All the parts of the plant are poisonous and can cause serious or even fatal health effects. “ In a dedicated article published in March 2019, the scientific journal The Conversation emphasizes that this toxicity arises from the fact that all its parts (flower, leaf, seed, sap) contain significant alkaloid content.
As the article states, “these alkaloids are responsible for symptoms of datura poisoning : increase in the diameter of the pupil (mydriasis), hallucinations, tachycardia, mental confusion, dryness of the mucous membranes. ” More precisely, within an hour of the meal, the first clinical signs appear: digestive disorders (nausea, vomiting), dry mouth, increased heart rate, dilation of the pupils, state of agitation, hallucinations … which may be accompanied by disorientation, even seizures and coma.
Don’t improvise before picking and eating plants
If there is any doubt about the identification of the harvested plant, ANSES therefore recommends not to consume it.
It is also advisable to stop eating it if it has an unusual or unpleasant taste and to photograph its picking. to facilitate identification in the event of poisoning. “Make sure you know what the plant that is going to grow looks like. Use the photographs available on the bag of seeds purchased or on other media “, confirms the Agency.
You must also remain vigilant when picking: just because a seedling emerges where it was sown does not mean that it comes from the sown lot, and do not pick by loads to avoid mixing toxic species with edible species.
The first step to take in the event of poisoning is to contact a poison Control Center or call 15 in the event of vital distress (coma, respiratory distress, etc.)