Family Name: Apocynaceae
Native to: West Africa
Despite its beautiful rose scent, the winter-blooming Strophanthus gratus is actually quite wicked. The plant is a source of ouabain, a glycoside poison that can cause heart problems. Extracts containing ouabain have long been used by Somali tribesmen and other groups to poison hunting arrows. It is rumored that a sufficiently concentrated ouabain dart can bring down a Hippopotamus, probably as the result of respiratory or cardiac arrest. Not realizing their toxicity, ancient Egyptians and Romans first used plants containing cardiac glycosides medicinally for heart ailments. Modern medicine has since developed synthetic forms of ouabain and tested it as a heart medication and for cancer therapies.