Hyderabad: Following the death of a child and hospitalisation of another, both of whom ingested seeds of a rosary pea plant in New Delhi earlier this month, experts advised caution while touching and consuming unfamiliar plants as they might be toxic.
Rosary peas are native to India and are frequently used as decorative plants. Called ‘ratti’ or ‘gunchi’ in Indian languages and ‘guruvinda’ in Telugu, the plant can be identified through its lavender and mauve flowers.
“This is exactly why such plants are even more dangerous — because anybody would want to pluck them as they look pretty,” said Rajashekar Tummala, a consulting ecologist.
“While it's difficult to tell what plants are toxic and what is not by merely looking at them, the thumb rule is to just never eat anything from a plant you've never known about,” he said.
Arun Vasireddy, ecologist, said that plants like ‘guruvinda’ are common in open areas across Hyderabad. “Several toxic plants like the Mexican oleander (‘pacha ganneru’) or the Flame Lily (‘agnishika’) are grown as avenue trees across the Hyderabad scape. Every part of the oleander plant, including leaf, flower, seed and stem, is poisonous,” he said.
He said that while there’s no umbrella rule, one must especially stay away from plants having dark red or bright-yellow flowers.
“Definitely keep away from seeds because they are the most potent, causing the fastest shock to the body,” he said.
According to the National Centre for Disease Control, symptoms of ingesting a toxic part of a plant may include nausea, bloody diarrhoea, hallucinations, convulsions and organ failure.
Experts said one must seek immediate medical advice if symptoms of poisoning are observed.