THE POISON GARDEN website      Arum maculatum berries on a Cannabis leaf 

Search thepoisongarden.co.uk:

This free script provided by JavaScript Kit

Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Saturday 30th July 2011

I’ve written before about being taught, during my one day of learning about gardening, that plants want to grow and it is up to the gardener not to prevent that happening. Which is excellent if you’re talking about plants you want to have in the garden, but not so good if it’s something you’d rather wasn’t there.

Our current home was newly built when we moved in just over ten years ago but had been built on the site of previous buildings. Go back far enough and this land was part of a Victorian slaughterhouse. Our neighbours are on the site of the main premises so they find more pieces of animal bone in the garden than we do but I still dig up the occasional big piece of thigh bone or similar.

Symphoricarpos albus, snowberry

Our immediate predecessor, however, was a private residence that, according to reports, was not much more than a wartime Nissen hut and as its sole resident grew older the large garden was allowed to become more and more overgrown. The builder, of course, had to clear a lot of this in order to build this house but he didn’t bother removing the shrubs along the northern boundary and the trees at the bottom were required to be left.

When we moved in, in July 2001, I was happy to leave alone anything that was growing well so as to concentrate on the parts of the garden that were no more than weedy scrub. But, over the following few years I started to deal with those shrubs that didn’t suit us. The main plant in that category was Symphoricarpos albus, the snowberry. Part of my problem with it was that it had become so large, or rather THEY had become so large because there must have been a dozen of them along a 10m stretch of fence. Underneath there was a strong growth of Aegopodium podagraria, ground-elder, and I knew I needed to be able to get at that to have any hope of dealing with it.

I considered just removing some of them and cutting the rest back but once I start removing plants I tend to go for the lot so the whole lot came out; at least what was visible above ground had gone.

Symphoricarpos albus, snowberry

Since then, each year, I’ve had to remove some re-growth from roots left behind. This year, however, I’ve let one stay and, I hope, it will get big enough to produce fruit. That’s because I want to see if my theory about the berries is correct. The list of toxic substances reported to be present is just about endless but there are very few reported cases of ingestion and none of serious poisoning.

The absence of serious harm is attributed to the berries being very strongly emetic so that the toxins never get the chance to be fully absorbed but, it must be said, that idea is based on the evidence of only two known cases of ingestion since 1885.

My theory about the lack of incidents is that the white berries simply don’t look appealing and don’t, therefore, lead to accidental ingestion. Plus, of course, there are very few plants that produce white berries and none of these is known as a tasty treat so there’s no reason for confusion.

Generally, what stops a poisonous berry from causing a serious poisoning incident if ingested is the taste. Many such berries, like the Solanum dulcamara, are so bitter that you just don’t want to eat enough to be poisoned or, like Arum maculatum, cause an almost immediate tingling in the mouth indicating something untoward is going on.

I’ve never read anything about the taste of the Symphoricarpos albus so I don’t know if this is an additional factor. If my, presently, small plant succeeds in fruiting I shall, very carefully, see if there is anything about the taste that offers an additional disincentive.

Update 4th December 2015

After receiving an email from someone who tried a berry and had an hour long tummy ache as a result, I thought I would add this note that I did try and berry and found the taste unattractive.

Unlike my correspondent, I didn't bite into the seeds and experience the extreme bitterness that she suffered. But, we can both confirm that eating snowberry fruits is not a fun thing to do.

 

Full Entries

2016

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

2015

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



IMPORTANT NOTE

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