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Lolium temulentum, darnel

Summary

For a long time, this was thought to be the only poisonous grass but it is now agreed that it is just one of the unfortunate hosts of the complex and multi-harmful ergot fungus.

Family

Poaceae

Meaning of the Name

Lolium
Rye grass. The English ‘rye’ translates into Latin as both ‘lolium’ and ‘Phoenecia’, the coastal region of Syria, which may be the geographical origin of the plant.
 
temulentum
From the Latin, ‘temulent’, ‘drunken’ from the heavy seed heads lolling over under their own weight.

Common Names and Synonyms

darnel, bearded darnel, cheat, tare, tares, cockle

How Poisonous, How Harmful?

Lolium temulentum, darnel

Lolium temulentum, darnel

Though for a long time this was believed to be the only variety of grass to be poisonous, it is generally believed that the presence of a fungus Claviceps purpurea (ergot) is what makes the plant toxic.

Incidents

No reported incidents

Folklore and Facts

It is believed to be the 'tares' referred to in the bible though this can not be confirmed. Tares is referred to in the parable at Matthew 13:24-30 in the King James version. Modern language versions tend to substitute 'weeds' for 'tares' though this seems to lose the point that it can be difficult to distinguish between the worthwhile and the worthless.

It was mixed with radish to form a cream which was good for the complexion.

Lollardy, or Wycliffism, England's only native medieval heresy, is believed to be named for the plant.