“The Happening” and Plant Science

  by  |  June 12th, 2008  |  Published in All, Environment

 |  Stumble |  Share on Facebook |  Tweet This | 

In “The Happening,” common plants release a neurotoxin that threatens the survival of the human race. This movie premise may be far-fetched, but scientists say summer is a good time to familiarize yourself with toxic plants that can be harmful to your health. This ScienCentral News video has more.

[If you cannot see the You Tube video below, you can click here for a high quality mp4 video.]

M. Night Shyamalan, director of “The Happening”;
Lewis Nelson, New York University;
Jody Payne, New York Botanical Garden
Length: 1 min 50 sec
Produced by James Eagan and Chris Bergendorff
Edited by James Eagan and Chris Bergendorff
Copyright © ScienCentral, Inc.,
with additional footage courtesy 20th Century Fox Pictures,
“Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants,”
and Michael Gasperl.

Toxic Gardens

In the film, neurotoxins released by ordinary plants short circuit the survival instincts of anyone exposed to them, leading to a plague of grisly suicides. While researching the behavior and characteristics of plants for the film, director M. Night Shyamalan was intrigued by what he uncovered.

“All the things in nature, and all the things that I learned about neurotoxins, and plants, and how they behave, and how they communicate with each other, it’s fascinating. It’s one organism.”

And while Shyamalan’s ecological nightmare is fiction, it’s no secret to scientists that plants do wage chemical warfare. The defenses that plants have evolved to protect themselves from danger can sometimes pose real danger for animals and people.

Lewis Nelson is a medical toxicologist working at the New York University Medical Center, and is co-author of the “Handbook Of Poisonous And Injurious Plants.” He says that while the film’s premise is clearly fiction, it does have some basis in fact.

“The idea that plants have neurotoxins is not farfetched at all. The idea that plants can cause people to get neurologically toxic is not farfetched at all.”

He recalls a case in the South Pacific where the toxic cycad plant was being eaten by bats known as flying foxes. “The cycad toxin was building up in the flying foxes. The people were eating the flying foxes and getting this terrible neurotoxic syndrome.”

Nelson says the people ended up with a degenerative illness resembling Lou Gehrig’s disease. However, extreme cases like that are rare, and most of us know to watch out for wild species like poison ivy and poison oak.

But, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the garden, horticulturist Jody Payne, who works at the New York Botanical Gardens, notes that many backyard plants can also be toxic.

“Any part of this plant is poisonous,” she says, pointing to a pink-flowered foxglove plant, “so you want to stay away from it. You don’t want to ingest it.”

Simply touching the common nettle can cause blistering and swelling. Ingesting a foxglove can be deadly. And Payne says you should never burn poisonous plants because inhaling the smoke can be extremely toxic. But, as she makes clear, the best way to avoid harmful exposure is to simply be aware of the dangers in the first place.

“Learning about your plants is important, and making sure that your children are aware that they shouldn’t put anything in their mouth that grows,” she says, adding, “the more you know about your plants, the better off you are.”

And toxins in plants aren’t always a bad thing. Nelson and Payne both point out that they are often put to good use in the development of new medications. Nelson says, “Many plants contain drugs that we currently utilize. Many plants contain drugs that we don’t even know about.”

He emphasizes that it’s the dosage that’s key. A small amount of an herb can be medicinal, while a larger dose of that same herb could be toxic.

That element of unknown potential makes toxic plants so interesting to scientists, gardeners, and even… horror movie writers.

 |  Stumble |  Share on Facebook |  Tweet This | 


  1. The Happening: Garden Variety Horror | ScienCentral says:

    August 13th, 2008 at 4:22 pm (#)

    [...] more, check out ScienCentral News’ original story on toxic plants, “The Happening and Plant Science.” Share Post:   Digg |  Stumble |  SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: [...]

  2. Environmental Themes in "The Day The Earth Stood Still" | ScienCentral | Science Videos | Science News says:

    December 12th, 2008 at 10:15 am (#)

    [...] “The Happening” and Plant Science [...]

  3. kookimebux says:

    February 1st, 2009 at 11:46 am (#)

    Hello. And Bye. :)

  4. Johne416 says:

    May 1st, 2014 at 12:09 am (#)

    Hi my friend! I want to say that this post is amazing, great written and include almost all significant infos. I’d like to see more posts like this. abkadadgedfd

  5. Przegrzanie organizmu says:

    August 24th, 2014 at 6:08 pm (#)

    Providing you are a Director or employee of a company, these
    payments are an allowable deduction against the Corporation tax liability of the company.
    In the previous section, I offered up three questions you must
    use as a focal point when creating a business model. The tire
    producers in the United States were affected positively because they were competing with artificial competition.

    Look at my blog – Przegrzanie organizmu

  6. wilderness survival camping says:

    September 24th, 2014 at 9:10 am (#)

    Hurrah! At last I got a weblog from whgere I be capable of
    in act get valuable facts concerning my study and

    my web-site :: wilderness survival camping

  7. meeburil says:

    January 24th, 2015 at 10:38 am (#)

    xcgn thyroxine thyroid cancer treatment thyroxine.

  8. channel fox says:

    February 6th, 2015 at 2:18 am (#)

    Hi the loved one! I would like to claim that this post is awesome, terrific published including somewhere around crucial infos. I would like to observe a lot more posts in this way .

  9. stickers says:

    September 15th, 2015 at 8:52 pm (#)


    “The Happening” and Plant Science | ScienCentral | Science Videos | Science News :: ScienCentral | Science Videos | Science News

  10. iPhone 7 Plus Wallet Case says:

    October 13th, 2016 at 2:28 am (#)

    Many Android manufacturers make their phones a little larger and flatter than iPhones, and Google is no exception. The Pixel is about 4-percent taller and wider than the iPhone 7, but only 0.2-millimeter thicker.

  11. ponenorif says:

    April 2nd, 2017 at 7:28 pm (#)

    levitra 40 mg dose. order levitra. levitra patent.

  12. Best Yeezy Boost says:

    May 26th, 2017 at 12:37 am (#)

    If you’re familiar with Kith, New York’s sneaker and streetwear mecca, you know it’s into collaborations. Founder Ronnie Fieg has partnered with everyone from Off-White’s Virgil Abloh to ’90s TV shows like Power Rangers and Rugrats.

  13. Atayapatai says:

    August 29th, 2017 at 3:42 pm (#)

    canadian drug stores list order domperidone z pack used to treat

  14. Aozaponiq says:

    September 1st, 2017 at 3:04 am (#)

    what to do for hiccups domperidone-kanbura40 cream for fairness and glowing skin

  15. home garden says:

    September 9th, 2017 at 10:33 pm (#)

    home garden

  16. coolsculpting thighs price says:

    November 18th, 2017 at 6:55 pm (#)

    coolsculpting side Effects frozen feeling

  17. better email management says:

    November 21st, 2017 at 1:53 pm (#)

    marketing campaign

Leave a Response


Clicky Web Analytics