African Poisonous Plants

Poisonous plants can be deceptively beautiful. Many attractive poisonous plants, including those native to the African continent, can have one or more parts that contain harmful toxins. These toxic parts can injure or even kill people and animals when touched or ingested, so it is important to know what native African plants you can safely handle and grow in and around your home.


Vinca (Catharanthus roseus) is a common ornamental plant native to the African island of Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world. Also known as Madagascar periwinkle, this plant is grown as a flowering annual in many gardens. Vinca produces five-petal flowers in colors of pink, lavender blue, white or white with a red center. All parts of the vinca are poisonous, and the toxic substances in the plant can cause hallucinations when eaten.

Blood Lily

The blood lily (Scadoxus multiflorus), also called the African blood lily or powderpuff lily, is a flowering plant that grows from a bulb. Blood lilies produce six petal-like flower segments with colors gradually changing from red to pink. They are cultivated as outdoor flowering bulbs or grown indoors as houseplants. The bulbs of blood lilies are poisonous and can cause nausea, vomiting or diarrhea if ingested.

African Hemp

African hemp (Sparmannia Africana) is a shrub with hairy, white, asymmetrical leaves and four-part white blossoms with yellow stamens. Grown as a houseplant or an outdoor ornamental, African hemp can cause skin irritation if you touch the poisonous hair on its leaves. African hemp is, however, considered a low-risk toxic plant. If skin irritation does occur, it typically only lasts a few minutes.


Agapanthus (Agapanthus orientalis) is a South African native and member of the lily family. Also called the African blue lily, it is a herbaceous perennial that produces long, slender leaves and clusters of blue or white flowers. Agapanthus is often found growing in a flower garden or used as a decorative indoor plant. The poisonous part of the agapanthus is the sap in the leaves, which can cause minor skin irritation when touched but severe pain and ulceration in the mouth if eaten.

Climbing Onion

The climbing onion (Bowiea volubilis) has a large, partially exposed bulb with thin, green, leaf-free stems and small greenish-white flowers. Also known as a Zulu potato, this African native’s unusual appearance makes it a natural eye-catching centerpiece in interior spaces. The entire plant is poisonous. It can cause contact dermatitis from touching the bulb or nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and cramping if eaten. The plant is only severely toxic, however, if consumed in large quantities.

Keywords: African poisonous plants, poisonous plants Africa, toxic African plants

About this Author

Barbara Biehler is a freelance writer who has written articles for and eHow, as well as online specialty courses for She has a B.A. in English from the University of Central Florida, and over 15 years experience in business development, sales, and marketing. An avid gardener, cook, and voracious reader, Barbara resides with her family near Nashville, Tennessee.