Nature's Deadly Beauties

Jellies I

Looks can be deceiving.

When I shot these magical wonders for my "Jellies" series I was captivated by the slow-moving grace of their smooth sway, knowing full well that that is exactly how these sea nettle jellyfish capture their prey. Their long-laced trailing tentacles create a drifting net that sting and paralyze, moving their prisoners up to their mouths to be devoured. Deadly, beautiful...paralyzing.

It got me thinking about how the beauty in nature that can strike awe in us can also strike back. It is a naturally evolved ability; these species mesmerize with their come-hither camouflage. Here are six examples of nature's deadly beauty:

Blue Dragon Slug

This teeny tiny sea slug measures in at only 3 cm but can be deadly because it feeds on hydrozoans like the poisonous Portuguese man o' war, and saves the venom in concentrated form. Not to worry, it will only strike out in defense if it feels threatened. But don't be fooled to think its beauty means it's benign.  


Autumn Crocus

One of the most endangered plants in the world, Autumn Crocus -- or "meadow saffron" or "naked ladies" -- is also one of the most poisonous. Its toxin has no antidote and can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, liver and kidney problems, blood disorders, nerve problems, shock, organ failure, and death. Definitely keep the kitties away from these killer blooms!


Blue-Ringed Octopus

A bright multicolor exterior does not always equal a friendly interior. Despite its small stature, the blue-ringed octopus harbors enough toxic chemicals to kill 26 adult humans and is recognized as one of the most venomous marine animals in the world. The toxin in its bite can cause nausea, cardiac arrest, respiratory arrest, paralysis, blindness, or death.



Walking beneath a wisteria-filled canopy may feel like a wistful dream. But the flowers that fall ever so gracefully from its branches are actually quite toxic. If any part of the plant is consumed, it can cause nausea, fever, and diarrhea. Good thing these tree tops are often high enough to be out of reach!


Female Orchid Mantis

Due to how the female mantis hunts near flowers, her appearance has evolved to imitate pretty-in-pink orchid flowers, luring pollinating insects into getting just a little too close for comfort. But how incredible: their uncanny resemblance to pink and white orchids is truly a natural marvel.



Although popularly planted because of their fragrant flowers in common areas like schoolyards, the oleander is one of the most poisonous plants on earth. All parts of the shrub are toxic, including its leaves and branches. If digested it can result in severe digestive, nervous, and cardiovascular system shutdowns. Even a brush against one of its leaves can immediately irritate your skin.


Does this make you think differently about the nature of beauty?

Top image for purchase: Jellies I by Sarah Lee Art Photo