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Potentially Deadly Toxic Plant Found Blooming On NYC Sidewalks

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - A potentially deadly toxic plant has been found growing along the sidewalks throughout New York City.

Paul Hoeffel checked out a datura plant growing at the corner of 93rd Street and Columbus on the Upper West Side.

He has one just like it in his garden, reports CBS2's Kiran Dhillon.

"It's the exact same," said Hoeffel. "The flower is very distinctive. It has this beautiful white coronation."

As beautiful as the flowers may be, they are also highly toxic - even deadly if consumed.

That's a shock to many of the people who walk by it every day.

"I've seen this plant many times, but never knew about the toxicity," said Karen Dhostino.

"It's just amazing how it even ended up here," said Ronald Bongiovanni.

Though not that well known, the datura plant isn't all that rare after all.

Experts say the plant, also known jimsonweed, is actually pretty common but can cause hallucinations if consumed.

"It's not a plant you want growing in a very highly populated area where people might inadvertently consume it," said former New York City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe.

Benepe spotted the plant during a bike ride this weekend.

He says he's seen many more just like it around the city.

"It's a plant that spreads very quickly through seeds and will colonize disturbed soil," he said. "It's kind of what happens if you create a planting bed and don't maintain it."

MORE: Invasive Plants Overrun New York's Parks

Benepe says the plant is dangerous.

"If a child were to ingest one of those seed pods, it could be very serious complications including death," he said.

Another major concern is the possible impact on drug users.

"People's unintelligent decision for trying to experiment with the plant, that's where you find most cases of poisonings," said Marc Hachadourian of the New York Botanical Gardens.

Despite the danger level, the New York Botanical Garden says there's no reason to be alarmed. Instead, it encourages people to just be aware and alert if they come across it.

"This isn't an invasion of poisonous plants that are out to get us," said Hachadourian. "There are many poisonous plants that are found in New York City."

Back at Columbus and 93rd, that's little comfort to those passing by.

"Get it out as quickly as possible – like, today," said Bongiovanni.

"I don't care whose jurisdiction it is, it needs to be taken care of right away," said Dhostino.

Exactly who is responsible for this plant is still a mystery, but the city says it has now removed it.

The city says its gardeners infrequently find jimsonweed in city parks, but when they do, they remove and dispose of it immediately.


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