I’ve been having an argument with myself about Heracleum mantegazzianum, giant hogweed. If you follow that link to the plant page you’ll see that I have blogged about it on many occasions and, last year, tracked the development of a number of patches of the plant in Edinburgh. In those pieces, I expressed my concern that allowing the plants to mature and set seed would result in their proliferation. With the very nasty burns that can arise from contact with the plant, I feared that many more people could be harmed if no attempt is made to control its spread.
There is another recurring theme to this blog and that is the Jerry Maguire Test. Very early in the life of this blog I explained that I am wary of accepting the voices of doom who pronounce on the dangers of one plant or another because it is, generally, difficult to find large numbers of case reports to show that the potential for harm is being realised. And there is my internal argument. Am I doing what I condemn in others; making a fuss about a plant that, in reality, doesn’t cause a lot of harm?...more
I don’t know if anyone will read this. That’s not the paranoia of the lonely blogger. I just haven’t decided whether I should publish what I’m about to write and I know I won’t be able to make a final decision until I’ve finished writing. I’m facing the conundrum about how to criticise a blatant self-publicist without adding to the publicity they are seeking.
Previously, I have written about Peter Hitchens’ shameless promotion of his own book and, on that occasion, the response I got encouraged me to write more about it the next day. But I wondered, at the time, if it was a wise thing to do and the fact that Hitchens book has been pretty much of a failure doesn’t completely allay my fears about promoting tosh when criticising it...more
There are some stories about plants that keep being told and the question, for me, is whether to respond to them every time they get repeated. Things like the claimed harmful potential from ricin, the poison found in Ricinus communis, castor oil plant, or the alleged risk to horses from Jacobaea vulgaris (syn. Senecio jacobaea), common ragwort, regularly feature in all forms of online media.
I try, and almost certainly fail, to find a balance between simply repeating previous pieces on every occasion and making sure that spurious claims are refuted in the hope that anyone seeking information with an open mind has access to all the information. I’ll probably write more about this, as far as ricin is concerned, shortly.
'If drugs are harmful and kill why do people sell them and make them? It’s stupid, they’re putting other peoples’ lives at stake. By the way I’m 12 and doing it for a report at school and dads a cop, moms a lawyer.'
I received this email from someone in the USA and thought I’d reply here partly because this is a question a lot of people ask but also because I’m waiting to hear from a parent before replying directly. Obviously, I’m not going to identify the young person who sent the email so I’ll refer to them by the gender neutral Jamie..more
I thought I should try and make these musings a little more highbrow and decided that a piece of poetry to open might achieve that enhanced sophistication.
‘Hooray, hooray, the 1st of May,
Outdoor sex begins today.’...more
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'Is That Cat Dead? - and other questions about poison plants' is now also available in Kindle form from Amazon.