There are thousands of plants that humans have found economically useful. The list below does not include all uses for our Greenhouse plants. Not included here are plants used purely for ornament (floriculture, horticulture). PLEASE! Do Not Eat any plants in the PLB Greenhouse as all have been treated with pesticides.
Food, Beverage and Condiment Plants
- Agave tequilana (Tequila Plant, Blue Agave). Fermented leaves source of tequila.
- Ananas comosus (Pineapple). Fruits eaten.
- Arachis hypogea (Peanut, Groundnut). Seeds eaten.
- Canna edulis (Achira, Edible Canna). Rhizomes and young shoots eaten.
- Ceratonia siliqua (Carob). Fruits made into chocolate substitute (not that there is such a thing!).
- Cereus peruvianus (Pitaya, Cactus Apple). Fruits eaten.
- Citrus spp. (Citrus, Orange, Lime, Lemon). Fruits eaten.
- Coffea arabica (Coffee). Seeds made into beverage.
- Colocasia esculenta (Taro). Fleshy rhizome and leaves eaten.
- Eriobotrya japonica (Loquat). Fruits eaten.
- Ficus carica (Fig). Fruits eaten.
- Ginkgo biloba (Ginkgo, Maidenhair Tree). Seeds eaten.
- Gnetum gnemon (Melinjo). Seeds made into flour.
- Ipomoea batatas (Sweet Potato). Fleshy tuberous roots eaten.
- Lablab purpureus (Hyacinth Bean,Lablab Bean). Fruits eaten.
- Malpighia glabra (Acerola, Barbados Cherry). Fruits eaten.
- Manihot esculenta (Cassava, Tapioca, Yuca). The root is the starchy staple of the tropics, at least after the toxic prussic acid is removed. NOT in Greenhouse (get!).
- Musa spp. (Bananas). Fruits eaten.
- Olea europaea (Olive). Fruits eaten.
- Opuntia ficus-indica (Prickly Pear Cactus). Fruits eaten.
- Phoenix dactylifera (Date Palm). Fruits eaten.
- Punica granatum (Pomegranate). Fruit eaten.
- Solanum quitoense (Naranjilla). Fruits eaten.
- Urtica dioica (Stinging Nettle). Leaves eaten (believe it or not!).
Herbs and Spices
- Antethum graveolens (Dill). Fruits used.
- Capsicum spp. (Chili Peppers). Fruits used.
- Mentha piperita (Peppermint). Leaves used.
- Nepeta cataria (Catnip, Catmint). Leaves used.
- Ocimum basilicum (Basil). Leaves used.
- Piper spp. (Black Pepper). This species is not the pepper of commerce but a member of the same genus. Black pepper derives from fermented, dried fruits whereas in white pepper the fruits are not fermented.
- Plectranthus amboinicus (Indian Borage). Leaves used.
- Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary). Leaves used.
Perfumes, Flavors, Essential Oils
- Eucalyptus citriodora (Lemon-scented Gum). You have to smell these leaves!
- Vanilla planifolia (Vanilla). Commercial vanilla is derived from the fruits (capsules) that are soaked in alcohol.
Medicinal and Drug Plants
- Ajuga reptans (Bugleweed). Tannins for treating wounds.
- Atropa acuminata and A. belladona (Belladonna). Produces atropine.
- Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar Periwinkle). Produces vincristine and vinblastine.
- Digitalis purpurea (Foxglove, Deadmen's Bells, Witch's Bells). Source of the cardiac glycoside digitoxin.
- Ephedra sp. (Mormon Tea). Source of ephedrine, a decongestant.
- Eschscholzia californica (California Poppy). Alkaloids used as pain killers.
- Hedera helix (English Ivy). Various, to treat skin problems.
- Viola tricolor (Pansy). For treating skin ailments.
- Aglaonema (Aglaonema). Produces raphides, crystals of calcium oxalate.
- Allamanda cathartica (Common Allamanda, Golden Trumpet). All parts of the plant but mostly the fruit and sap cause stomach upset.
- Anthurium (Tailflower). Produces raphides, crystals of calcium oxalate.
- Asclepias curasavica (Bloodflower). Contains cardiac glycosides.
- Caladium (Mother-in-law Plant, Angel-wings). Produces raphides, crystals of calcium oxalate.
- Colocasia (Elephant Ears). Produces raphides, crystals of calcium oxalate
- Datura metel (Metel, Downy Thornapple, Devil's Trumpet). All members of the genus Datura are poisonous, including the common Jimson Weed (Datura stramonium). All parts of the plant are poisonous, particularly the seeds. They contain many alkaloids including hyoscyamine, atropine, and hyoscine (scopolamine).
- Dieffenbachia spp. (Dumb Cane). Produces raphides, crystals of calcium oxalate as well as some toxic proteins.
- Euphorbia milii (Crown of Thorns). This species and other members of the family Euphorbiaceae produce milky sap that causes dermatitis and poisoning if ingested.
- Jatropha. All members of the genus are poisonous, such as J. gossypifolia (Bellyache bush), J. multifida (Physic Nut, Coral Plant), and J. podagrica(Tartogo, Australian Bottle Plant). Sap from all parts of the plant contains curcin, a toxalbumin.
- Lantana camara (Lantana, Red Sage). Although commonly cultivated, the fruit (especially the green unripe one) contains the alkaloid lantanin or lantadene.
- Monstera (Windowleaf). Produces raphides, crystals of calcium oxalate.
- Nerium oleander (Oleander). Contains cardiac glycosides nerioside and oleandroside.
- Ornithogalum longibracteatum. A relative of this greenhouse plant, O. umbellatum, is poisonous, so this species might be as well.
- Philodendron spp. (Philodendrons). Produces raphides, crystals of calcium oxalate
- Rhododendron (Azalea, Rhododendron). Although not often grown in our greenhouse, it is a commonly planted shrub around this and other buildings on campus. The plants contain andromedotoxin, a toxic resinoid.
- Scindapsus aureus (Golden Pothos). Produces raphides, crystals of calcium oxalate.
- Zantedeschia spp. (Cala Lily). Produces raphides, crystals of calcium oxalate.
- Musa. Members of the genus are not only grown for food but also fiber, such as M. textilis (Abaca, Manila Hemp).
- Agave. All members of the genus produce fibers in their leaves, but A. sisalana (Sisal, Hemp Plant) is cultivated specifically for this purpose.
Many native plants can be used for dyeing. See the following:
Richards, L. and R. J. Tyrl. 2005. Dyes from American native plants: a practical guide. Timber Press. Portland, Oregon.
- Isatis indigotica (Woad). This and other species (e.g. I. tinctoria) are the woad that gives a blue color upon dyeing.
Poisonous Local Plants
The following list of native and commonly cultivated Illinois poisonous plants is included as a general reference. The list contains plants poisonous to livestock as well as people. Those plants listed above are not repeated. This list is not to be considered exhaustive but a work in progress.
Acer spp. including A. rubrum, A. saccharinum. (Maples)
Actaea spp. (Baneberry, Dolls Eyes, White Cohosh, Snakeberry)
Aesculus spp. (Horse Chestnut, Buckeye)
Agrostemma githago (Corn Cockle)
Allium spp. (Onions)
Amaranthus spp. (Pigweed)
Ambrosia spp. (Ragweeds)
Apocynum spp. (Dogbane)
Aquilegia ssp. (Columbine)
Argemone spp. (Prickly Poppy or Mexican Poppy)
Arisaema spp. (Jack in the Pulpit)
Arum italicum (Italian Arum)
Asclepias spp. (Milkweed)
Asparagus officinalis (Asparagus)
Astragalus spp. (Locoweed)
Brassica spp. (Rape, Cabbage, Turnips, Broccoli, Mustard)
Buxus spp. (Boxwood)
Caltha palustris (Marsh Marigold or Cowslip)
Cannabis sativa (Marijuana)
Centaurea solstitialis (Yellow Star Thistle)
Chelidonium majus (Celandine)
Chenopodium album (Lambs Quarters)
Cicuta spp. (Water Hemlock or Cowbane)
Conium maculatum (Poison Hemlock)
Convallaria majalis (Lily of the Valley)
Cytisus scoparius (Scot Broom)
Delphinium spp. (Delphiniums and Larkspurs)
Dicentra spp. (Bleeding Heart, Squirrel Corn, Dutchmans Breeches)
Digitalis purpurea (Foxglove)
Equisetum spp. (Horsetails)
Eupatorium rugosum (White Snakeroot)
Fagopyrum esculentum (Buckwheat)
Festuca arundinacea (Tall Fescue)
Gelsemium sempervirens (Jessamine)
Glechoma spp. (Ground Ivy, Creeping Charlie, and Gill over the Ground)
Gymnocladus dioicus (Kentucky Coffee Tree)
Helenium amarum [synonym H. tenuifolium] (Bitterweed)
Helleborus spp. (Hellebore, Christmas Rose)
Hyoscyamus niger (Henbane)
Hypericum spp. (St. Johns Wort, Klamath Weed)
Iris spp. (Irises)
Laportea canadensis (Wood Nettle)
Lathyrus spp. (Sweet Pea, Tangier Pea, Everlasting Pea, Caley Pea and Singletary Pea)
Linum usitatissimum (Flax)
Lobelia spp. (Great Lobelia, Cardinal Flower, and Indian Tobacco)
Lotus corniculatus (Birdsfoot Trefoil)
Lupinus spp. (Lupine)
Medicago sativa (Alfalfa or Lucerne)
Menispermum canadense (Moonseed)
Melilotus alba and M. officinalis (White and Yellow Sweetclover)
Narcissus spp. (Daffodil, Jonquil)
Nicotiana spp. (Tobacco and Tree Tobacco)
Onoclea sensibilis (Sensitive Fern)
Papaver spp. (Various Poppies including Opium Poppy)
Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia Creeper)
Phoradendron serotinum (Mistletoe).
Phytolacca americana (Pokeweed)
Pieris spp. (Japanese Pieris, Mountain Fetterbrush)
Pinus ponderosa (Ponderosa Pine)
Podophyllum peltatum (Mayapple and Mandrake)
Prunus spp. (Wild Cherries, Black Cherry, Bitter Cherry, Choke Cherry, Pin Cherry)
Pteridium aquilinum (Bracken Fern)
Quercus spp. (Oak Trees)
Ranunculus spp. (Buttercups or Crowfoot)
Rheum rhaponticum (Rhubarb)
Ricinus communis (Castor Bean)
Robinia pseudoacacia (Black Locust)
Rumex spp. (Dock)
Sambucus canadensis (Elderberry)
Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot)
Saponaria spp. (Bouncing Bet and Cow Cockle)
Securigera varia (formerly Coronilla varia) (Crown Vetch)
Senecio spp. (Senecio, Groundsels, and Ragworts)
Solanum spp. (Common Nightshade, Black Nightshade, Horse Nettle, Buffalo Bur, Potato)
Sorghum spp. (Sorghum or Milo, Sudan Grass, and Johnson Grass)
Symplocarpus foetidus (Eastern Skunk Cabbage)
Taxus spp. (Yew)
Toxicodendron radicans (Poison ivy) and Toxicodendron toxicarium (Poison oak).
Toxicodendron vernix (Poison Sumac)
Trifolium spp. (Alsike Clover, Red Clover, White Clover)
Urtica spp. (Stinging Nettle)
Veratrum spp. (False Hellbore). V. woodii in Illinois
Vicia spp. (Common Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Narrow leaved Vetch, Purple Vetch and Broad Beans)
Wisteria spp. (Wisteria)
Xanthium strumarium (Cocklebur)
Zigadenus spp. (Death Camas)
For an Excel spreadsheet with a list of poisonous plants, click here
See the following:
Wikipedia - Poisonous Plants. An extensive list here.
Hardin, J. W. and J. M. Arena. 1969. Human poisoning from native and cultivated plants. Duke University Press, Durham, NC.