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3 Bend children mistake toxic plant for wild onion, wind up in hospital

Father says side effects started within an hour of consumption

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A Bend man says three of his children were hospitalized after mistaking a toxic plant for wild onion and consuming it. Now, he wants to warn others of the potentially deadly plant.

The man, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Jordan, said his 12-year-old daughter and 10-year old and 7-year-old sons picked up what they thought were wild onions in the public land behind their home in Bend on Monday and asked him and his wife if they could eat them.

They found these wild onions, and they asked if they could cook them up and eat them as part of their meal,” Jordan said Tuesday. “We said yes.”

He said the children chopped up the plants and used them as toppings on their tacos. 

“Within an hour or so, all three of them got really sick,” Jordan said.

He said the effects worsened quickly. The children became pale and light-headed, then started vomiting.

He said his wife gave them charcoal tablets to suppress their stomach aches while they consulted a nurse over the phone. 

They found out the children had not consumed wild onions, but instead, a toxic plant called death camas.

“It blew me away that I had never heard about this plant before,” Jordan said.

Jordan said the children were taken to St. Charles Redmond. 

He said his daughter and 10-year-old son were airlifted, while he accompanied his 7-year-old son in an ambulance to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland. 

He said toxicologists there confirmed the plants the children had consumed were death camas, which contributed to the children’s rapidly decreasing heart rate.

NewsChannel 21 spoke with Professor Amy Jo Detweiler, a horticulturist for OSU Extension Service offices in Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties. 

She said death camas can be found in a variety of forms across Central Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. She said it can be toxic to humans, wild animals and livestock if consumed.

“The death camas should not have an odor,” Detweiler said. “Wild onion would smell like wild onion. Camas has a creamy white flower on it, and all parts of the plant are poisonous to humans.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says if the bulbs are eaten, the effects may be lethal. The USDA also says death camas poisoning is more common in the spring when the plant is more abundant.

Jordan said his children are recovering, and doctors said they can expect to come home Wednesday. 

He said he wants to warn other people, especially parents, to be more cautious of plants in the wild, and to not consume them without consulting an expert first.

Bend / Central Oregon / Top Stories / Wildlife

Rhea Panela

Rhea Panela is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Rhea here.

Comments

23 Comments

  1. That is terrifying but I am glad that the children are going to recover. What is the difference between this plant and the camas roots that were dug and eaten by Native Americans?

    1. “The bulbs of Camassia species are edible and nutritious when roasted or boiled, but should not be confused with the toxic white-flowered meadow death-camas (which is not in Camassia, but part of the genus Toxicoscordion, which grows in the same areas); the bulbs are difficult to distinguish.“

  2. Another dangerous plant is water hemlock, looks a little like wild carrot. Grows along the irrigation ditches and is dangerous for livestock as well as humans.

      1. was mistaken for such a number of years ago in Central Oregon, and the eating of it, sent three to the U of O med school hospital, lives at risk, so while your arrogance is apparent, for some it was mistaken and deadly

      2. Poison Hemlock (which I used to see a lot on the West side of the mountains) looks a lot like wild carrot, and has been mistaken for it. Waterhemlock is even more poisonous and looks similar. Both have purple stems, which is the give-away to avoid them.

  3. Yes. The Judson’s posted about this on social media. Apparently they don’t live that far from me. Here is the post Mrs. Judson made.

    common weed growing in our area-deadly

    I just wanted to share our experience with what we thought was “wild onion”. We’ve been watching these plants grow all spring and we thought they were wild onions. Once mature they have a bulb that resembles an onion. Our kids ate some with our permission with their tacos. Within 30 minutes they started exhibiting symptoms that told us something wasn’t right. The got sleepy, dizzy, blurred vision, hot and sweaty and eventually began throwing up. After a call to poison control we quickly went to St Charles ER in Redmond where a team of Drs and nurses hooked them all up to IV and monitors. Their heart rates were dangerously low and blood pressure was dropping. They administered a medication to counteract this. We then were transported by life flight and ambulance to Doernbechers Children’s Hospital in Portland where they are now in ICU. They’re responding well to the medication and we should be able to come home tomorrow.
    I just want all of our neighbors to know to hopefully prevent anyone else from making the same mistake as us. This plant is called “death camas”. I’ve added a picture for comparison.

  4. The questions I want to ask the parents is:
    What were you thinking?
    How could you cook and feed your children a weed that they brought home from the desert?
    Where was your concern for the safety of your children?

    1. it was an honest mistake, there are many who forage for wild foods, Stalking the Wild Asparagus is a book on the subject. don’t be so harsh, she was openly sharing a mistake for our safety, but foraging wild foods is common

      1. Thank you for a polite and sane response. I am so amazed at the number of “mean people ” who made heartless comments on this story. What about being thankful the kids are OK and that the parents took swift action once the mistake was realized ?

      2. Yea I’d cut the parents some slack; it’s not like they did it intentionally. Glad the kids are going to be OK. I’ve never heard of Death Camas before this incident; thanks for getting the word out.

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