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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Wednesday 28th September 2011

If I thought Monday was a summer's day there is no way to describe today. Bright sunshine, hot and with enough of a warm wind to make you think you were in some Mediterranean resort.

I had to go into town for an eye test in the afternoon. In Scotland, if you're over 60, they put drops in your eyes to be able to photograph the retina and keep a watch for changes that might indicate future serious problems. I did ask if the optician was using atropine, from Atropa belladonna, but it is a manufactured chemical that causes less dramatic pupil dilation.

Even so, the optician suggested waiting half an hour or so before driving so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to see how many poisonous plants I could spot growing in the town's public park. I set myself the challenge of spotting six different genera thinking I would do a photo-blog to show them. In the event, I saw eleven plants and one fungus so I am going to cheat and spread the pictures over two days.

The first pictures are not actually from the park. They are from the front garden of a house close on the road leading to the park and I've included them because I was very surprised to see Aconitum napellus, monkshood, flowering so abundantly so late in the year. I was also a little disgruntled that my plants had died back in June 18th june and here were these splendid specimens in late September.

         Aconitum napellus, monkshood        Aconitum napellus, monkshood

Aconitum napellus, monkshood

The rest of the pictures are all of plants and trees growing in the park.

        Prunus laurocerasus, cherry laurel        Prunus laurocerasus, cherry laurel

Prunus laurocerasus, cherry laurel

       Rhododendron        Symphoricarpos albus, snowberry

        Rhododendron                                                          Symphoricarpos albus, snowberry 

I took the opportunity to undertake the test I've mentioned before but thought I wouldn't be able to do this year and tasted a snowberry. The outer skin seemed to be quite tough with the result that the pulp got quite mashed up before a succeeded in breaking the skin. I just tried a very tiny amount on my tongue but that was enough to convince me that there is no danger of anyone being poisoned by Symphoricarpos because they like the taste.

          Taxus baccata, yew                Taxus baccata, yew

Taxus baccata, yew

        Aesculus hippocastanum, horse chestnut        Aesculus hippocastanum, horse chestnut

Aesculus hippocastanum, horse chestnut

I'll post the rest of the pictures in tomorrow's blog not least because that gives me a chance to check on a couple that I'm not sure I've correctly identified.