THE POISON GARDEN website      Arum maculatum berries on a Cannabis leaf 


This free script provided by JavaScript Kit

Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Sunday 6th November 2011

On 8th October, I wrote about an incident in Kooralbyn, Queensland, in which over twenty horses died in a very short space of time. At that time, only the Hendra virus had been eliminated as a possible cause with all other poisons, including plant poisoning, still being considered.

I didn’t expect a plant poison to be implicated and wrote about it as an example of the sort of story that often doesn’t reach an easily available conclusion. I complained, in that entry, that initial reports of a poisoning incident usually had speculation about a possible clause but it was much less likely that the final outcome of an incident would be reported.

It occurred to me that I could be guilty of the same thing if I didn’t write about the latest news from Australia on this incident.

Early in October a total of 22 horses died on a ranch in Queensland, Australia. They were so-called ‘quarter’ horses, that is, they were lodgers being cared for by someone in return for payment from the owner.

Within three days, sixteen horses died or had to be put down and, over the following days, a further six were lost. The Queensland authorities looked at all possible causes of the deaths and reported, on November 3rd, that the investigation had concluded that the animals died either from botulism in the soil or scrub ticks. The Chief Biosecurity Officer for Queensland said it was impossible to give a complete determination between the two since the symptoms produced are very similar.

The horses were seen to be heavily infested with ticks and the news report infers that botulism was found in the soil so either could have caused the fatal poisonings. It seems that Biosecurity Queensland believe that everything possible has been done to identify the cause and it cannot get any closer than saying it was one of the two. (Though it doesn’t say it, I would have thought that both could have played a role but we’ll never know.)

It seems that this will not be the end of the matter. The man who was looking after the horses and their owner sent samples of hair from some of the horses to an American laboratory. This laboratory, apparently, found high levels of heavy metals in the hair and, as a result, the two men involved are unhappy with the conclusions reached by Biosecurity Queensland.

The official investigation ruled out heavy metals as a possible cause so the American lab’s results are odd. I suspect that the story will rumble along but I doubt if any further developments will provoke media attention.

As I said, I thought I should write this up rather than leaving the open questions from the 8th October even though it turns out to have no plant component. Saying that demonstrates that I accept the explanation given by the Biosecurity Queensland investigators rather than the ‘heavy metals that could have been present in plants’ hypothesis that is being clung to by those responsible for these animals.

There is one small read across to the broader subject of plant components. Biosecurity Queensland says it can’t be sure which of two possible causes is to blame and the owner of the horses and the man in whose charge they were seem to be saying that this means an entirely different third cause could be responsible. It is a little like the way people take science’s inherent doubt and portray that as justifying totally unscientific beliefs.


Full Entries


Tuesday 25th October 2016
Saturday 20th August 2016
Sunday 6th March 2016
Wednesday 3rd February 2016


Saturday 28th November 2015
Friday 27th November 2015
Monday 17th August 2015
Wednesday 15th July 2015
Friday 26th June 2015
Thursday 25th June 2015
Thursday 30th April 2015
Wednesday 29th April 2015
Wednesday 11th March 2015
Tuesday 3rd March 2015
Saturday 28th February 2015
Sunday 22nd February 2015

November 2014

Monday 24th November 2014
Saturday 8th November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

Wednesday 24th September 2014
Monday 1st September 2014

August 2014

Tuesday 26th August 2014
Saturday 16th August 2014
Tuesday 5th August 2014
Friday 1st August 2014

July 2014

Sunday 27th July 2014
Wednesday 23rd July 2014
Sunday 13th July 2014
Sunday 6th July 2014
Tuesday 1st July 2014

June 2014

Wednesday 25th June 2014
Tuesday 24th June 2014
Sunday 22nd June 2014
Monday 9th June 2014
Wednesday 4th June 2014

May 2014

Monday 26th May 2014
Sunday 18th May 2014
Wednesday 14th May 2014

April 2014

Sunday 13th April 2014
Saturday 5th April 2014
Thursday 3rd April 2014
Tuesday 1st April 2014

March 2014

Monday 31st March 2014
Tuesday 25th March 2014
Friday 21st March 2014
Monday 17th March 2014
Sunday 16th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Thursday 6th March 2014
Wednesday 5th March 2014
Saturday 1st March 2014

February 2014

Thursday 27th February 2014
Monday 24th February 2014
Wednesday 19th February 2014
Monday 17th February 2014
Thursday 13th February 2014
Monday 4th February 2014
Monday 3rd February 2014
Saturday 1st February 2014

January 2014

Thursday 28th January 2014
Thursday 23rd January 2014
Friday 17th January 2014
Wednesday 15th January 2014
Monday 13th January 2014
Thursday 9th January 2014
Tuesday 7th January 2014
Wednesday 1st January 2014

December 2013

Monday 23rd December 2013
Friday 20th December 2013
Tuesday 17th December 2013
Friday 14th December 2013
Thursday 12th December 2013
Sunday 8th December 2013
Wednesday 4th December 2013
Sunday 1st December 2013

November 2013

Friday 29th November 2013
Wednesday 27th November 2013
Tuesday 26th November 2013
Friday 22nd November 2013
Monday 18th November 2013
Friday 15th November 2013
Thursday 14th November 2013
Sunday 10th November 2013
Thursday 7th November 2013
Wednesday 6th November 2013
Friday 1st November 2013

October 2013

Thursday 31st October 2013
Sunday 27th October 2013
Wednesday 23rd October 2013
Monday 21st October 2013
Friday 18th October 2013
Friday 11th October 2013
Wednesday 9th October 2013
Tuesday 8th October 2013
Monday 7th October 2013
Tuesday 1st October 2013

September 2013

Monday 30th September 2013
Saturday 28th September 2013
Friday 27th September 2013
Monday 23rd September 2013
Sunday 15th September 2013
Monday 9th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

August 2013

Sunday 8th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

Tuesday 27th August 2013
Sunday 25th August 2013
Monday 19th August 2013
Friday 16th August 2013
Tuesday 13th August 2013
Friday 9th August 2013
Friday 2nd August 2013
Thursday 1st August 2013

July 2013

Saturday 27th July 2013
Sunday 21st July 2013
Wednesday 17th July 2013
Monday 15th July 2013
Saturday 13th July 2013
Friday 12th July 2013
Thursday 11th July 2013
Wednesday 10th July 2013
Tuesday 9th July 2013
Saturday 6th July 2013

June 2013

Friday 28th June 2013
Tuesday 25th June 2013
Friday 21st June 2013
Thursday 20th June 2013
Wednesday 19th June 2013
Saturday 15th June 2013
Sunday 9th June 2013
Saturday 8th June 2013
Saturday 1st June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

July 2012 blog

June 2012 blog

May 2012 blog

April 2012 blog

March 2012 blog

February 2012 blog

January 2012 blog

December 2011 blog

November 2011 blog

October 2011 blog

September 2011 blog

August 2011 blog

July 2011 blog

June 2011 blog


The POISON GARDEN website is not connected with Alnwick Garden Enterprises Ltd and/or The Alnwick Garden Trust.