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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.


Saturday 28th November 2015

I’ve received a remarkable first person account of an accidental poisoning. The person concerned was on a visit to Germany and thought he recognised a bush with berries on it as being one he knew to be edible in his native USA. It was not. Instead it was Atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade.

As I stress repeatedly, serious accidental plant poisoning is a rare event meaning there are not that many personal accounts of what the effects can be. For that reason, I asked for his permission to publish his story here. I have edited out anything that might damage his anonymity but have left the actual progress of the poisoning as it was sent to me..more

Friday, 27th November 2015

With the approach of Christmas, I remembered that I taken some video of Viscum album, mistletoe, in the summer. It seemed like a good time to make a Poisonous Plants 1-2-1 video about it.

So, here it is...more

Monday, 17th August 2015

It's been a while since I made a Poisonous Plants 1-2-1 video, mostly because I'd made videos for most of the plants where I had sufficient footage.

My recent holiday on the Maltese island of Gozo was the opportunity to get footage of the two different plants that share the common name oleander...more

Wednesday, 15th July 2015

You can always rely on Edinburgh for a good display of Heracleum mantegazzianum, giant hogweed...more

Friday, 26th June 2015

It’s been several months since I last sat down to write a full blog post. There have been topics that very nearly tempted me back but, in the end, I felt I could deal with them well enough via a photo added to a tweet. I did post a mini-blog about the hysterical coverage of Aconitum napellus but that was just a quickie to try and balance the nonsense being spouted elsewhere.

What’s brought me back to a full piece and pictures is the time I spent at Bryngwyn Hall. Bryngwyn Hall is a small (as such places go) country estate in mid-Wales. It is home to Auriol Marchioness of Linlithgow. (Her staff call her ‘Lady L’ and I’ll use that from now on for simplicity.) Like a great many such places, the challenge is to be able to afford to keep them by commercial exploitation without going so far over the top that you lose all the things you love about your home that make you willing to invite strangers in for weddings, clay pigeon shooting weekends, one day courses and the like...more

Thursday 25th June 2015

Just a quick couple of paragraphs, for now, about the ridiculous stories in the media following the inquest on Nathan Greenaway.

If you didn't read my previous post about this unfortunate man you might start there because nothing that came out at the inquest changes anything I wrote then...more

Thursday 30th April 2015

I’d been hesitating about publishing this and the entry dated 29th April 2015 but then, during a prolonged Twitter exchange with the Transform Drug Policy Foundation , Peter Hitchens posted his usual ‘anyone who read my book would know [x]’ so I Tweeted to say I had read the book and that meant I knew he was wrong. Hitchens response was a simple ‘I don’t believe you’. So, this post is specifically for Peter Hitchens. I think even you will see that if I can write this and the previous pieces, here and here, then I must have read the book.

As I posted, yesterday, I have now finished reading ‘The War We Never Fought’, Peter Hitchens’ attempt to show that there is no such thing as prohibition of cannabis. It took me a lot longer than I expected partly because I had to stop so many times to make marginal notes about points I wanted to look into further or thought I might want to write about the way I did yesterday and on 3rd March...more

Wednesday 29th April 2015

FULL DISCLOSURE. I actually drafted this piece early in March but I held it back until I had finished reading the whole book. I’ve now done that and will write up the experience for tomorrow.

It has become almost a traditional part of Sunday to watch the Twitter exchange between Peter Hitchens and whoever has decided to point out the flaws in his latest column for the Mail on Sunday. Sometimes, I’ll join in though I know the futility of it. I did think I should have another look at the claims and arguments made in his book ‘The War We Never Fought’. It’s worth saying that I don’t expect these pieces to be of great interest at this time but I wanted to be able to respond the next time Hitchens holds up his book as being the evidence for his beliefs...more

Wednesday 11th March 2015

I'm always interested to hear of individual incidents involving poisonous plants. (I changed 'delighted' to 'interested' because I didn't want to sound pleased that someone had suffered harm.) Most of the time, the accounts I'm sent are very brief so I was delighted to be contacted by someone who kept careful, contemporaneous notes of the experience.

I thought I would post the account in full. My correspondent wished to remain anonymous so I have made a few small edits to reduce the chance of anyone identifying the case...more

Tuesday 3rd March 2015

This is the first in a series of indeterminate length to be posted over an indeterminate time concerning statements and claims made by Peter Hitchens in his book ‘The War We Never Fought’. Hitchens has a tendency, when challenged to provide evidence for one of his claims about the harms of Cannabis sativa, marijuana, to cite his own book as that evidence. I’m not sure whether he truly doesn’t understand what is meant, in science, by ‘evidence’ or whether it is just his willful arrogance coming to the fore.

Whatever it is, I’ve thought for a while that it might be interesting to read the book and just see if there is anything in it that a) can be substantiated as fact or b) though assertion rather than fact I agree with. It is over two years since I wrote about what appeared to be a review of the book by its author but turned out to be simply an extract. In this piece, I debunked the central premise of that segment...more

Saturday 28th February 2015

I’m rather proud on my library of books about poisonous plants, psychoactive substances and murder and murderers. That’s a bit vain but it is not just a matter of having them in the bookcase at one end of my study so I can look at them and think ‘Owning all those clever books must mean that I’m clever’. I do refer to them quite a lot, especially when someone asks a question and I want to be sure I’m not giving an off the cuff answer. The vanity part is when I have particular editions rather than just a modern reprint just for the access to the text.

When someone emails to ask about a particular plant, I’ll usually turn to about half a dozen books before replying. Three of these will be relatively recent publications to get the facts as we understand them today and the rest will be ‘herbals’ written hundreds and even thousands of years ago...more

Sunday 22nd February 2015

I don’t use cookies on this website so the information I can get about site visitors is limited to anonymous figures for visits to individual pages and the like. On Friday morning I noticed from my website statistics that this page 26/2/13 had suddenly jumped to be the third highest visited on the previous day. It was the same again this morning so I decided to see if I could find out why.

If you haven’t clicked through to see what it was about I’ll tell you; it discusses Kathy Gyngell’s reaction to a poll showing support for an examination of the effectiveness of the Misuse of Drugs Act...more


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


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