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Plants in our Sales nursery – Antiaris toxicaria, fatal to approach?

June 18, 2010

At Dokmai Garden we have a lion cage with poisonous plants. Some ask us why we keep such destroying angels in a garden with children. Since  most children don’t even eat vegetables, why would they suddenly grab an unknown bitter leaf in an urge to eat it? We have poisonous garden plants in Europe too, such as Wolf’s Bane (Aconitum spp.), Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) and Oleander (Nerium oleander). According to the Swedish Poisons Information Office, accidental poisoning from plants is never fatal and only occurs when children drink water from a vase with toxic flowers, such as “Lily of the valley” (Convallaria majalis). In Thailand, most gardeners have the African desert rose (Adenium obesum). It has been used as a blowdart poison too, by many different African tribes.

The aim of Dokmai Garden is to impart knowledge about all flowering plants, including the ‘ugly’ and ‘dangerous’ ones. We believe all plants are different expressions of the original miracle of life. In addition to beauty and edibility, many plants are ecologically interesting, and in the case of poisonous plants, they are surrounded by legends, so let us start with the legendary Upas (Antiaris toxicaria, Moraceae).

I have spent several years searching for it, and I finally obtained four seedlings. The fables claim that it poisons its surroundings and that it is even fatal to approach. This is not true. It does contain a cardiac glycoside, so if you inject the sap your heart will stop.  The death is almost instant. It is said that a man wounded by such a dart, can only walk nine steps on level ground, or eight steps downhill, or seven steps uphill, before death. The sap has therefore been used to poison arrows and blowdarts, used by hunters in Africa and Asia.

The tree is native to tropical Africa, Asia and Australia. As with so many other poisonous plants, the fruit is actually edible. The bark is used to make the famous bark clothes of so many Asian forest tribes. In fact, in Asia it is an appreciated tree, providing a dense shade which is a necessary relief in the tropical heat.

Eric Danell

Antiaris toxicaria, the perfect tree in a collector’s or hunter’s garden.

Due to our conservation efforts we no longer sell plants.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Chad permalink
    April 1, 2011 8:34 AM

    Thanks for this nice description. I, too, have been searching for an Antiaris toxicaria sapling (or viable seeds), but alas have not been able to find one. I see that you do not offer your plants for export. 😦 Are you aware of any commercial vendor of this fascinating species?

  2. John Rekesius permalink
    February 20, 2012 3:38 AM

    For quite a while I have been searching for a source of viable seeds for Antiaris toxicaria, but have found none. Would you be able to sell about 10-20 viable seeds? I live in the United States. If you do not sell seeds, can you recommend any one who does? Thank you for your help!


    • February 20, 2012 9:58 AM

      My seedlings are too young, and I do not know of any retailer of such seeds. Let’s wait and see until the tree is mature enough.


      • John permalink
        February 20, 2012 12:09 PM

        Hi Eric,

        Sounds good to me! Just let me know when ever you think you might have any seeds available. Happy growing! Take care!

  3. March 6, 2013 2:32 AM

    Hello! Nice article!
    I think that clones of your Antiaris toxicaria cand be obtained faster by micropropagation, using the meristems (from the vegetative buds).

    • March 6, 2013 10:05 AM

      If there was a market I am sure some company would try, but there is hardly no market at all for jungle plants in Thailand. people want coconut, bougainvillea and plumeria.

      • March 7, 2013 2:05 AM

        I know… The clients only apreciate what is good to the eye…and this is somehow normal. I would like to have an Antiaris, but in Romania I would have to build a heated greenhouse especially for it 🙂

  4. June 12, 2014 4:19 AM

    Hi, I contacted you few years ago about the Antiaris toxicaria plant, you didnt have any spare seedlings then, do you have any now for sale?

    • July 1, 2014 7:28 PM

      At the moment we are in Sweden so there is nothing in the nursery back in Thailand, sorry.

      Eric and Kate

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