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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

December 2013

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Monday 23rd December 2013

I had two separate subjects that I was thinking of writing about but couldn’t decide which would provide the better piece. Then, as often seems to happen, the two came together in a way that surprised me and led me to indulging in a bit of speculation.

The first was this piece about the money being wasted on vitamin supplements, the way they are marketed as ‘natural’ and, therefore, good and the harm that has arisen from vitamin overdoses...more

Friday 20th December 2013

Strictly speaking, I shouldn’t include my latest video in a series called ‘Poisonous Plants 1-2-1’ because it is a fungus not a plant.

Amanita muscaria, fly agaric, has so many interesting stories attached to it, however, that I couldn’t resist trying to encapsulate them within two minutes..more

Tuesday 17th December 2013

There’s a regularly trotted out story premise found in a lot of science fiction. It involves a future world where the masses are kept semi-comatose by being fed an endless stream of entertainment TV that does not require them to confront real issues.

Unfortunately for science fiction writers that world is already with us, in part. It is BBC2’s ‘flagship news & current affairs’ programme ‘Newsnight’. It may be that after its spectacular recent failures (it didn’t broadcast its evidence of Jimmy Savile’s crimes but did broadcast false allegations against a prominent man) it is shy of addressing real issues but, whatever the reason, it has become the home of silly stunts...more

Saturday 14th December 2013

One of the frustrations of trying to follow stories about poisons from plants is that the media has a tendency to lose interest if a story either drags on too long or turns out not to be as exciting as first thought. And, of course, there’s a reluctance to admit that a story was over-hyped initially.

It is well-known, for example, that banner headlines screaming about, say, ‘Teenager dies from drug overdose at party’ tend to be followed, sometime later, with a small paragraph saying ‘Inquest finds teenager had undiagnosed heart condition’...more

Thursday 12th December 2013

Drug policy needs a new word but my efforts to formulate one have not been successful, so far.

It’s been a busy week for drug policy matters so I’ll try and summarise it before coming back to my main topic. On Monday, the US Office for National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) held a ‘Drug Policy Reform Conference’ without inviting any drug policy reformers to attend. I’ll come back to this event...more

Sunday 8th December 2013

Arum maculatum is a favourite of mine because its story involves two of the key topics concerning poisonous plants (well, all plants really for the first topic).

It has a multitude of common names but almost all of them have sexual connotations and, for that reason, it can also tell us a lot about past societies. Lords and ladies is one of the most often used names and that is based on the similarity between the spadix and the male penis and the spathe and the female vagina. In Victorian times, such imagery was unacceptable so an attempt was made to rewrite history by calling the plant our lord and our lady and claiming that the spadix was the baby Jesus with the spathe being his mother’s cloak wrapped around to protect him...more

Wednesday 4th December 2013

On Monday, we visited a garden centre and couldn’t help noticing the huge number of Euphorbia pulcherrima, poinsettia, plants being offered for sale. It seemed a good time to make a ‘Poisonous Plants 1-2-1’ video about this unusual specimen.

I managed to squeeze almost all of what I find interesting about the poinsettia into the timescale but couldn’t make the broader point that I find in its story..more

1st December 2013

Today’s video in the ‘Poisonous plants 1-2-1’ series features Aconitum napellus, monkshood.

Monkshood is an excellent demonstration of the difference between poisonous and harmful. It is one of the most toxic plants found in the garden, and it is found in a great many gardens, but it only very rarely causes accidental poisoning...more

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