When I began making the videos in the series ‘Poisonous Plants 1-2-1’ I realised that there would be some plants whose stories were so complex and convoluted that it would be hard to compress them into the short format. With practice, I think I’ve found how to get at the key issues without leaving too much out.
Two of the plants with the greatest amount of available myths, stories and facts were the castor oil plant and common ragwort. Having dealt with Ricinus communis last month I decided to have a go at Jacobaea vulgaris (syn. Senecio jacobaea), common ragwort, that I would say is the more complex of the two.
With the castor oil plant, the myths can be understood as resulting from the fear created about the plant. I would suggest that the false characterisation of ricin as a bioterror weapon has played a part in conditioning some people’s response to the revelations from Edward Snowden about the extent of state surveillance of everyday life. ‘Don’t blame us, it’s because of them’ seems to be the message from the agencies involved where ‘them’ are these theoretical bioterrorists producing ricin with no more than a click of their fingers.
With common ragwort it is much more difficult to determine what motivates the persistence of the nonsense that is written about it. I don’t think I’ve been able to explore that within the 121 second format but, I hope, you’ll find this a useful introduction to the plant.
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