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.

Monday 1st April 2013

Folklore, all folklore not just that concerned with plants, has regional or national variations. Just yesterday, I mentioned the common name, ‘our saviour’s flannel’, is usually given to  Echium vulgare, viper’s bugloss, but, in Kent, it is Verbascum, mullein, that gets this name and the folklore associated with it.

So, today, for me is April Fools Day but for others it is All Fools Day. In the folklore I was brought up with, the playing of tricks on people is supposed to end at noon though there are plenty of people who believe it should last all day. They may be right, because you might think it would be called April Fools Morning if it was intended to finish at midday.

But, given that I follow the am only tradition, it was important to get this piece published as early as possible. Not that I am trying to fool you. It would be rather foolish to signpost my intention so clearly. Most published April Fools’ jokes rely on the reader forgetting the day.

Rather, I’ve been saving a couple of stories for today to follow a new and growing tendency to publish stories that seem to be outrageous jokes and then reveal they are, in fact, true.

Let’s start with the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. This is the annual meeting between the UN bodies concerned with drug control, UNODC and INCB, and representatives of governments from around the world. It is generally just an opportunity for people to claim the status quo is working well but would work much better if only tighter enforcement were pursued.

For a number of years, non-state bodies arguing either for reform or enforcement have been allowed to attend and the feedback from CND 2013 is that, at last, the views of those bodies are being listened to and they are becoming more involved in the main conference rather than being pushed to the fringes. This summary from the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition suggests that the intellectual incest of the CND where everyone believes current policy is wonderful may be under threat.

The reason for mentioning CND today is that just a week before the start of this conference dedicated to condemning the use of certain chemicals because of the damage they are said to do to society, a story emerged about another chemical, not condemned by the CND, that seems to be doing damage to the UN itself.

Joseph Torsella, the U.S. ambassador for management and reform at the UN, took his colleagues to task for the amount of alcohol they consume. Like all organisations, the UN’s budget negotiations tend to be protracted and go on long into the night. It seems that some delegations can only sustain themselves for such sessions by having booze present in the committee rooms. Others, it appears, do their drinking before the meetings and render themselves unable to attend. This report from Slate cites one incident where a delegate became ill during a meeting after drinking so heavily.

So while one part of the UN is busy seeking to bring an end to all use of certain psychoactive substances, other parts are showing all the signs of being problem users of alcohol. Given that the UN drug control regime is, in part, about reducing the damage done to poor countries by their involvement in the drugs trade you’d think there would be some concern about the damage being done to poor countries by the UN representatives spending freely on booze to help them through their work.

The other non-April Fool is also about strange priorities for spending limited resources. Since the 2010 election, public services in the UK have been under substantial pressure. The need to reduce spending has resulted in fundamental changes to the level of service provision.

On 20th March, the BBC reported that police officers would no longer visit every person reporting someone as missing. Presently, every one of the 900 or so reports each day of a missing relative or friend is dealt with by an officer going to the person who made the report for more information. The new idea is to determine whether a person is ‘absent’ i.e. just not where they were expected to be or truly missing.

Concern has been expressed that a frequent truant might be treated as ‘absent’ based on past form when they have, in fact, been abducted. But, tough times require hard choices so this move may be worthwhile if it demonstrates a determination by the police to reduce the waste of limited resources.


‘If’, because the day before this announcement the BBC was just one media outlet reporting that Crimestoppers, ‘an independent charity helping to find criminals and help solve crimes [sic]’, was distributing ‘scratch and sniff’ cards to households impregnated with the scent of Cannabis sativa, marijuana, to enable members of the public to identify houses being used as cannabis farms.

As above, Crimestoppers is a charity and, like all charities relies on donations. It didn’t take long for pro-legalisation pressure groups to start asking where the money for this campaign came from and pointing the finger at Crimestoppers’ core corporate sponsors. It emerged, however, that this particular campaign had been financed directly – with grants from a number of police forces.

The notion that members of the public would walk around their streets, notice an odd smell and pull out their ‘scratch and sniff’ card to see if their suspicions were confirmed would be laughable were it not for the evidence of the problems that might be caused.

In 2008, the Mail Online reported that an elderly couple in Bristol had had their home raided by police while they were on holiday because they had Phlox subulata, moss phlox, a plant with an aroma similar to cannabis, growing in their garden.

The idea that the police can’t afford to properly investigate every report of a missing person but can afford this ridiculous stunt should be an April Fools’ joke. But, sadly, it is not.


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.