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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Thursday 10th May 2012

Time for a brief update on my gardening progress for this year. This far north, it is not a good idea to put annuals out until the beginning of June, though I take that to mean when the ten day forecast reaches 1st June and there is no chance of any frost at the end of May.

That means this is the time of year when the seedlings are starting to get to a fair size and the number of pots spread around the sunroom explodes.

I’m very bad at pricking out over-crowded seedlings (this isn’t the Edinburgh Fringe Festival brochure so I don’t need to type that pr*cking1,2) so, assuming the seeds have successfully germinated, I end up with far more plants than I’m ever going to use but I find it very difficult to just compost them.

Of course, Sod is fully in control of his law. My Atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade, seeds have done really well and I could end up with about twenty or thirty viable plants. The existing plants in the garden, however, are doing pretty well so I really don’t need the additional ones. It’s not like I’m planning to grow them for a big crop of berries to sell. And, talking of selling, I don’t think they’d be welcome at the various charity plant sales that take place about now.

Atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade

Atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade

On the other hand, the Hyoscyamus niger, black henbane,, seeds I bought have been a big disappointment. I might get about three plants large enough to plant out plus one unidentified plant that is not henbane.

Hyoscyamus niger, black henbane

Hyoscyamus niger, black henbane

Unknown plant, from Hyoscyamus seed packet

Unknown plant, from Hyoscyamus seed packet

I didn’t bother with Aconitum napellus, monkshood, seeds, this year, preferring to spend a bit of money on three plants and they are doing very well with flower stalks starting to appear. If the persistent rain, today, eases at all, I’ll try and get a picture but that doesn’t look likely at the moment. So far, the plants already in the garden are showing growth but they did this last year before dying back without flowering and they are not nearly as large as the white flowering variety planted, with them, about four years ago.

Though eight of the ten seeds of Ricinus communis, castor oil plant, germinated only two look as though they are going to grow into anything worthwhile. If we get a decent summer that should be enough to get some useful flowering and fruit clusters to update my image and video portfolio.

Ricinus communis, castor oil plant

Ricinus communis, castor oil plant

Nicotiana sylvestris, woodland tobacco

Nicotiana sylvestris, woodland tobacco

Like the deadly nightshade, I think I’m going to have more than enough Nicotiana sylvestris, woodland tobacco, and the surplus might well be sellable. Silly isn’t it. The plant that rarely causes any harm never mind deaths would be shunned at a plant sale but the plant that shortens millions of lives every year would, almost certainly, go unchallenged. Sometimes, as the links below show, we can be very odd about how we decide what is acceptable. 


1.Why can't I be a prick? Chortle, the UK comedy guide 
2.Warming Up Richard Herring 8th May 2012


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