What is the difference between poisoned and poisonous?

Danger of confusion: wild garlic or poisonous lilies of the valley? The differences

The leaves of lily of the valley and autumn crocus look like wild garlic. Collectors should examine the plants carefully before taking them home.

Wild garlic and lily of the valley both have broad, lanceolate leaves in lush green. The fact that the early bloomers sprout in similar locations at the same time in spring means that collectors can easily confuse wild garlic and lily of the valley. Cases of poisoning increase particularly in April and May, when the lily of the valley is sprouting, as the two plants often grow close together. And the leaves of the autumn crocus are sometimes confused with wild garlic.

Lily of the valley and autumn crocus: these are symptoms of poisoning

This can have serious consequences. Because autumn crocus and lilies of the valley can cause life-threatening poisoning. In the case of lily of the valley, flowers, seeds and young leaves in particular contain large amounts of the substance digitalis glycosides. The poison colchicine is found in the autumn crocus.

Symptoms of poisoning are

  • Vomit,
  • Cramps,
  • acute circulatory problems and
  • bloody diarrhea.

They appear two to six hours after you eat. It can also come to a shock, paralysis and failure of the heart and circulation are possible. Medical help is vital.

Wild garlic, lilies of the valley, autumn croissants: these are the differences


You can distinguish wild garlic from lily of the valley and autumn crocus by the following characteristics:

  • Leaves: A wild garlic leaf grows out of the ground on a single stem, the plants are usually close together in groups. There are distinct ribs on the back of the leaf. In addition, only the upper side of the wild garlic leaves shines, the underside is matt.
    In the case of lilies of the valley, on the other hand, two or three leaves usually grow on a stem, they coat each other. The leaf blades are shiny light green on the underside.
    In autumn croissants, on the other hand, several leaves without a petiole are initially close to the stem and then open. The leaves are narrow and elongated-lanceolate, not broad-lanceolate like those of wild garlic and lily of the valley. They can be up to 40 centimeters and are therefore longer than wild garlic leaves.
  • Blossoms: Another difference between wild garlic and lily of the valley is the arrangement of the white flowers: while wild garlic is characterized by a semicircular umbellate flower, the flower buds of the lily of the valley grow in a row on the stem.
    The autumn crocus, on the other hand, rarely has white, mostly pale pink to purple flowers. They have grown together to form a long tube.
  • Odor: Another important distinguishing feature is the smell: when rubbing wild garlic leaves, a typical garlic smell arises. The leaves of the autumn crocus and the lily of the valley, on the other hand, are odorless.
  • Growth: It is typical of wild garlic that it often grows over large areas in the forest and completely covers the ground. With him the leaves sprout first. The flowering shoots do not follow until after six weeks. With lilies of the valley, the bell stalks come out of the earth at the same time as the leaves.

Differences between wild garlic and salmon seals

The salmon seal also has leaves similar to wild garlic. The plant in its entirety looks different. With the salmon seal, for example, many individual leaves grow along a stem. It has white bell flowers that hang down from these. The plant is poisonous. The leaves and berries in particular contain toxins such as saponins, chelidonic acid and homoserine lactone.

Real Solomon's seal (Polygonatum odoratum): The leaves are similar to those of wild garlic. (Source: imagebroker / imago images)

What to consider when collecting

Only pick wild garlic from a large field of wild garlic, as there is less chance that poisonous "doppelgangers" will grow there. With individual plants on the edge of the forest, the likelihood of confusion is significantly higher. Basically: Do not collect wild garlic if you are unsure about differentiating the plants.

If you want to grow wild garlic in the garden without confusing it: Small plants can usually be found in stores from March to May. The population can then continue to expand by itself. On the other hand, it is too late to sow in spring; this should already take place in autumn.

Lilies of the valley are also poisonous for animals. Livestock kept in forest fattening and grazing in the immediate vicinity of lilies of the valley are particularly at risk. This mainly affects pigs and goats. But also small animals such as dogs and cats, birds and horses can be poisoned by the early bloomers.

When wild garlic can be dangerous

Autumn crocus and lilies of the valley store substances in their leaves that can cause life-threatening poisoning. But wild ramsons can also be dangerous for your health: eggs of the small fox tapeworm can stick to the leaves. These are only killed at cooking temperatures of 60 degrees Celsius and more.

Wild garlic tastes good with these dishes

Wild garlic can be made into a delicious soup, for example, but is also only suitable for refining dishes. Pasta with wild garlic, filled or as a sauce, is particularly tasty. Further processed into wild garlic butter, the spice goes very well with meat and poultry or as wild garlic vinegar in salads. Or just make your own wild garlic pesto. So you can enjoy the herb all year round.