Poisonous plants may look harmless and similar to some edible plant species. There is no way to tell whether a plant is poisonous or not by its physical appearance. Consumption of plants that are not known to be safe to eat is dangerous. Recently, there was a local case of Solanum americanum poisoning where the victims had consumed leaves and fruits of Solanum americanum collected from the field. There was also a local case of narcissus poisoning.
Solanum americanum poisoning
Solanum americanum is a poisonous plant which is also called American black nightshade. Its leaves and fruits contain toxic alkaloids. Symptoms of Solanum americanum poisoning include diarrhoea, vomiting, dizziness, weakness, ataxia and slurring of speech.
Fruits or flowers of some traditional ornamental plants are edible but many others are not safe to be consumed. For example, narcissus, a favourite flower for the Chinese New Year, contains alkaloids in the bulbs and leaves. Symptoms of narcissus poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and dizziness. Severe poisoning may occur from ingestion of the bulbs which are sometimes confused with onions.
Advice to the Public
- Avoid picking wild plants for food.
- Source food from reliable suppliers.
- Do not consume plants that are not known to be edible. If in doubt, better not to consume them.
[Amended on 7 April 2014 based on the latest information provided by the Department of Health]