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Is That Cat Dead?

October 2104

As of October 2014, paper copies of 'Is That Cat Dead?' are no longer available directly from Amazon though affiliated suppliers of second-hand copies can still be accessed via the Amazon website. I also have a few copies so please contact me if you can't obtain one.

The Kindle edition has also been withdrawn. As some commenters' have pointed out there were some formatting issues. After working through the text, I have decided not to re-publish it because many of the stories of the plants have moved on since 2008. This is also why I have decided against a second printing of the paperback edition. I shall be thinking about whether to publish a revised edition or whether to write a differently structured book about poisonous plants and psychoactive substances.

I am extremely grateful to the amazingly high number of people who have bought 'Is That Cat Dead? - and other questions about poison plants' and very pleased that most of you found something of interest in it.

I will leave this page on the site in case there is still interest in the story behind the stories.


'Is That Cat Dead? - and other questions about poison plants', the book described by a leading reviewer as 'one of the most fascinating gardening books that I have ever read' is the ideal (and unusual) present for anyone with an interest in plants and the garden.

On this page you'll find the story of the creation of the book, chapter headings and other entries related to its publication and the subsequent reaction.

Why Write a Book?

While I was working at the Alnwick Garden, a number of my colleagues suggested I should write a book based on all the research I had done for four and a half years. That, of course, was before I created this website.

Many people have been kind enough to say very complimentary things about the POISON GARDEN website and you might think that this is the ideal medium for telling my stories.

When I left the Alnwick Garden, in April 2008, however, I had the time to think about whether a book might be able to deal with poison plants, in the widest sense, in a way which a website could not. Finally, it occurred to me that by trying to answer the questions most often asked by visitors to the Alnwick Garden Poison Garden I might be answering the questions most people have about poison plants and that might make the book more enjoyable and more pragmatic than a simple A to Z of theoretical capabilities.

Cover of 'Is That Cat Dead?'

Why 'Is That Cat Dead?'

You'll have to buy the book to discover how that can be an FAQ about poison plants but it struck me that it would indicate, immediately, that this was not just another poison plant book.

That, in fact, it was about a lot more than poison plants.

As soon as I saw the proposed cover design I felt sure I had chosen well.

Then, when the first person to see the cover asked 'That's not actually a dead cat is it?' I knew it was right.

Because, you see, a lot of what people say, or ask, about poison plants doesn't make sense if you think it through.

I've read an American book on poison plants which is emphatic that you should not bring holly into the house at Christmas because it is poisonous. This completely ignores the fact that hospitals are not stacked to the ceiling, each year, by people suffering the effects of ingestion of holly.

In large part, 'Is That Cat Dead?' invites the reader to think about what they are being told, about everything not just about poison plants, and decide if it seems reasonable to believe.

Video Introduction

Click below to view a short introduction to 'Is That Cat Dead?' The video includes footage of a number of well-known poison plants, because I didn't think anyone who want to just look at me the whole time.


Chapter Titles

A list of chapter titles might give you an idea of what the book contains.

Chapter 1 - What’s it All About?
Chapter 2 - Why are Plants Poisonous?
Chapter 3 - What’s the Most Poisonous?
Chapter 4 - What is the Biggest Killer? Part 1
Chapter 5 - What Is the Biggest Killer? Part 2
Chapter 6 - Have You Got Something Undetectable?
Chapter 7 - But Aren’t These Used as Medicines?
Chapter 8 - Have They Been Used As Murder Weapons?
Chapter 9 - Do You Mind Me Asking?
Chapter 10 - Does Mandrake Really Scream?
Chapter 11 - Why Don’t We Buy the Poppy Crop In Afghanistan?
Chapter 12 - Should Local Councils Grow the Castor Oil Plant, Ricinus Communis?
Chapter 13 - Where’s the Cannabis?
Chapter 14 - Why Are Some Plants in Cages?
Chapter 15 - Why No Fungi?
Chapter 16 - Is That Cat Dead?
Chapter 17 - What is Rosemary Doing in a Poison Garden?

Diary Section

From here, this page is an occasional diary of events related to the book. If you've visited this page before, you will notice that I've reversed the order so that the latest entry comes first. If you want to follow the whole story click here to start at the bottom and work up.

Thursday 2nd June 2011

Today, the occasional diary about book related matters becomes a daily blog about anything with a poisonous plants angle. I'm going to try and write about 500 words a day everyday. I'll have to see how that goes.

You can access the blog from here.

Sunday, 1st May

I found myself shouting at the TV this morning. BBC1's 'Countrytracks' was about Northumberland, including a visit to the Alnwick Garden Poison Garden. I didn't worry too much about the comments of the Duchess of Northumberland because she believes that over-stating the harm plants do is essential to get people to visit the garden. I did get in a lather, however, when the head gardener said that Solanum dulcamara produces black berries. Identification  of poison plants is one way to avoid being harmed by them.

Not for the first time, I wondered if I should have gone for an illustrated book rather than relying on people using the pictures on this site.

Thursday, 28th April 2011

I had another one of those unlooked for compliments today. I was attending a local exhibition and the chap manning the door recognised me. He'd heard me give a talk last year and, as a result, bought the book. 'Brilliant' was his one word description.

Friday, 11th February 2011

Early last November, I found out that Gardeners' Question Time were to record two editions of the programme at the Alnwick Garden on 30th November. I sent the production company a copy of the book and received an enthusiastic call from the producer saying that they would be doing a feature on the Poison Garden and they would definitely mention my book. He then asked if I could go to Alnwick to do an interview for the programme. I said I was willing but they should check with the Alnwick Garden. I heard no more.

In the event, the winter weather meant the recording was postponed until 31st January and the first of two programmes was transmitted today. They did have a feature on the Poison Garden but the book was not mentioned.

I do find it a little sad that the impartiality of the BBC can be compromised, albeit in a very small way, because an independent production company changed the planned content of a programme at the behest of the venue hosting it.

Sunday, 30th January 2011

Just finished the interview on 'The Green Welly Show'. I thought it went quite well, though as usual I was editing myself as I went along because I could have spent the whole time answering any one of the questions.

By chance, the question they had before I came on, was about oleander so they'd raise the subject of poisonous plants before.

With the time running out I didn't get the chance to correct him when he over-stated my role at the Alnwick Garden and may have given the impression that I still have some involvement. I don't now have any involvement. My time is spent updating this site and giving talks.

The programme is available on the BBC iPlayer here.  I'm on from 32 minutes in but it is worth starting from about 15 minutes in because there's a discussion on Nerium oleander and Euphorbia pulcherrima, poinsettia.

I've just listened back to it and found that I proved my point about common names by tripping over the hemlocks. Oenanthe crocata is, sometimes, called water hemlock but its more usual common name is hemlock water dropwort. Water hemlock usually get applied to Cicuta virosa or maculata, plants which are more common in the USA. And if someone just says hemlock they mostly, but not always, mean Conium maculatum.

Friday, 28th January 2011

I'm doing a telephone interview for BBC Radio Northampton this coming Sunday. I'd talked to the presenter last year and he'd expressed interest in doing an interview to coincide with publication but he says he didn't get around to it at the time.

I know he takes an interest in what's happening at the Alnwick Garden and it's been a busy week for the Garden. The Charity Commission made the latest published accounts available on its website. These show that the Duke of Northumberland had to, in effect, write off nearly £3m to keep the garden open and become the Trust's banker. Then, on Thursday, the man brought in to do a five year job of making the place viable announced his resignation after only sixteen months. I hope the timing of his call is pure coincidence.

We shall see at just after 1230 on Sunday on BBC Radio Northampton.

Thursday, 2nd December

It's been an interesting week. I received an email, via the contact page, from Professor Grollman of Stony Brook University, New York. The professor is a world-leading expert on problems arising from the use of unsafe 'herbal preparations' and sent me a number of papers and magazine articles about aristolochic acid poisoning arising from the use of plants in the Aristolochia genus.

It took me quite a while to assimilate all the information and even longer to try and produce a summary that gives the general reader an indication of the work that has gone into demonstrating that 'natural' does not always mean 'harmless'.

As a result of all this, it seems clear to me that Aristolochia deserves the title of most harmful plant due to accidental consumption. You can read the full details on the Aristolochia clematitis page.

Saturday, 6th November

A once in a lifetime experience today as the postman brings my first ever royalties cheque from my publisher. Thanks to all those who contributed towards it.

It's also the first time I have actual sales figures and it's very gratifying to see that sales have exceeded expectations by a very large margin.

Now, it's fingers crossed that people will realise that it will make a useful gift at Christmas.

Monday, 18th October

'That cat' is actually dead.

I paid a visit to the Alnwick Garden today to see if they'd planted anything new which I might get asked about during my winter talks programme, starting next week. It was also a chance to see former colleagues before they leave at the end of the month when over forty staff are being made redundant as the garden closes for four days a week through the winter.

As an aside, admission will be free on the other three days but, apparently, the cascade will not be running.

As you might expect, the atmosphere is not too good but the problems are no surprise.

One factor was what to do about Digger, the garden cat. She'd reached an age where she was less inclined to hunt for food and it was felt that leaving her on her own four days a week was unfair. One of the women agreed to take her home to join her own two cats but arranged for Digger to see a vet just to be sure she wasn't bringing anything nasty to her own pets. Sadly, she tested positive for Feline immunodeficiency virus so the vet had to put her to sleep.

Digger was first noticed as the earthworks began almost ten years ago. Her demise may be an omen given the financial troubles the garden is in.

Incidentally, the cat on the cover of 'Is That Cat Dead? - and other questions about poison plants' is not digger but a professional photographic model.

Friday, 27th August

I've realised what I've been doing wrong. I've tried to make the book as pragmatic as possible without allowing too many flights of fancy to go unchallenged.

It seems that is not the way to get media attention. A new book, which I won't name, suggests that the Pont St Esprit poisoning in France in 1951 was the work of the CIA. This is enough for the BBC to feature it on its Radio 4 'Today' programme and, of course, the outer spiral arms of the blogosphere have jumped on the idea of more wrongdoing from America.

Shame it isn't so, really. For a brief view of the most likely, and entirely mundane, explanation of the outbreak visit the Claviceps purpurea page.

Monday 28th June

One of the challenges facing anyone who looks after children is what to do about poisonous plants in the garden. It's a topic which comes up often and, recently, I became involved in a discussion on the Childminding Help Forum where I put forward my view that you can not hope to keep children away from all risks so you should concentrate on teaching them about the potential for harm as soon as they can begin to understand. I always say that teaching a 3-year old what not to touch is the start of teaching the 13-year old not to accept pills from a friend at school.

Anyway, as a result, I was asked to provide a review copy to the site owner and she has now written a very nice review. You can read it at the product reviews page of the Childminding Help website. (Opens new window)

Friday 25th June

The publisher has sent a copy of a brief piece about the book in the July edition of 'Cake Craft & Decoration'. I wondered what cake decorating had to do with poison plants until I read the piece. It seems that there is controversy in the cake decorating world over the use of real flowers because 'they might be poisonous' and the reviewer has complimented me on my 'less histrionic view of poisonous plants'.

Wednesday 16th June

We had a trip out today to one of those garden centres which is more of a shopping mall. Naturally, I couldn't resist the urge to look at the book department but it wasn't on offer. This was disappointing but I, then, looked for Liz Dauncey's new book and found that this, also, was not on the shelves though other Kew Garden books were.

Now, I've been working on a new page for this site about Pastinaca sativa, the parsnip, after someone emailed to say he had been burned after removing old plants from his allotment. One thing, which seemed odd, is that the parsnip is not on the Horticultural Trades Association list of potentially harmful plants; but nor are any of the vegetables which can be harmful if the wrong part is ingested or it is eaten raw not cooked.

I was thinking about what to write about the parsnip as I wondered around the garden centre when the thought struck me that the reason for not stocking my, or Liz's, books could be another manifestation of the horticultural trade's fear that, by pointing out that some plants can be harmful they might deter buyers.

I'm, probably, completely wrong about this but it was a comforting way of explaining why a book, that is selling well in the places where it is being stocked, was not available.

Wednesday 9th June

Time for a blatant plug.

20th June, in the UK and, maybe, elsewhere, is Father's day and, about now, children and grandchildren will be trying to decide what present to get to mark the day. Money's a bit tight so the Ferrari will have to wait for another year. Dad's a keen gardener and he has a big library of gardening books but you don't want to buy one he's already got.

What better choice could there be than 'Is That Cat Dead?'? You know he hasn't already got it because he'd be sure to be talking about it and you know he hasn't got another book on the same subject so there's no danger of your present getting left on the shelf while he continues to use his 'old favourite'. 

Thursday 3rd June

A big piece in today's 'Berwickshire News' filling almost all of the top half of page 3 with a large picture and a good write-up.

It was more than just a puff piece for the book. I am genuinely concerned that there is a large patch of Heracleum mantegazzianum, giant hogweed, within the confines of the fort Kinnaird shopping centre to the south-east of Edinburgh city centre. The local council say that all they can do is advise the landowner about eradication but they might not be able to identify the land owner. They say they have no power to fence the land or erect warning signs.

Thursday 27th May

Most online booksellers seem to have 'bestseller' charts but they don't give a lot of information about how the charts are compiled.

There's also the question of how a book is classified by the seller. I always knew 'Is That Cat Dead?' would be hard to categorise and people have included it in everything from toxicology to popular science to gardening.

Waterstones has it in biochemistry and this morning, after steady upward progress, it entered the top 10 list for that category.

Tuesday 11th May

I've just seen this entry on the publisher's website.

'April draws to a close with a delightful full-page review in the Evening Standard for our most popular title of the month - Is That Cat Dead?, an unusual book on poison plants. Listing some common household plants that are more lethal than their familiar names imply, the quirky article perfectly encapsulated why this little book is flying off the shelves.'

Considering the book wasn't officially published until the 28th April, it must have done pretty well to be the most popular of the month.

Friday 30th April

Yesterday, when I wrote about Amazon selling out, again, I did stop and wonder if I was tempting fate. Today, it seems I wasn't as Amazon has its 'only 3 left' message up but, this time, it says 'more on the way'.

Thursday 29th April

Finally, the book is officially published. At least this means that the next time Amazon sells out the 'not yet available' message won't be displayed.

I've resisted the temptation to go and see if I can find it in a bookshop, mostly because I'm nowhere near any. I am in Edinburgh on Saturday, though, so I'll try and see if I can find it then.

Saturday 24th April

I heard from the publisher, yesterday, that Pattie Barron had written a piece for Wednesday's London Evening Standard based on the book.

It took me a bit of time to find it on the Evening Standard website but it is there. It's in the 'Homes & Property' supplement which appeared on the site as a pdf of the whole thing. Sadly, the file is no longer available.

Friday 23rd April

I'm starting to get some feedback from people who have bought the book and read it. Comments like 'just wanted to congratulate you - its a really good read' are very encouraging and, so far, are typical.

Wednesday 20th April

I gave a talk this evening to a very small local group. I don't mind talking to very small groups because, without I hope sounding too arrogant, I welcome the chance to make a small contribution to their continuation. They were very attentive and the best part was that, at the end, over half of them bought a copy of the book.

13th April

Amazon has sold out! Now, I don't know how many copies they started with so I don't know how pleased to be that they've all sold but it's still seems like good news. Not such good news that it would be worth writing about. The reason for writing about it is that, because the book became available before the 'official' publication date, Amazon's software has reverted to the 'This title has not yet been released' screen.

So, if you're wanting to buy the book and Amazon is your preferred retailer, don't think you'll have to wait until the end of April to get it. I'm assured that the software will catch up with reality. Or, of course, you can order it from somewhere else.

There's been quite good reaction to The Sunday Post article. It's a little odd meeting people in the local town and having them start by speaking about their surprise over Sunday breakfast.

11th April

'The No. 1 bestseller' - according to Amazon this morning, that is, and just for books tagged as being about toxicology. I don't think I'll shout about it but it's nice to know that the book is being bought. If there were no Amazon (other online booksellers are available, as they would have to say on the BBC) the first I would know about sales would be in six months time.

Also, today, a long piece in the Scottish Sunday paper 'The Sunday Post' in their 'The Honest Truth' feature. It's a full page, page 34, and has pictures of Senecio jacobaea, ragwort, and Digitalis, foxglove. The online version is illustrated with a picture of Epilobium angustifolium, rosebay willow herb, which is not, as far as I know, poisonous. Mrs Grieve says an infusion of the leaves may stupefy but I haven't found Maud to be that reliable in the past. It makes the interesting point that many plants can be called 'poisonous' whilst hardly ever doing any poisoning. I suspect, however, that someone mistook willow herb for foxgloves.

The Sunday Post website doesn't archive material so I can't provide a link to the interview.

I will, of course, be going out to buy several copies to pass around during the week ahead.

6th April

The Newstalk interview went quite well except that my slow, thick brain missed the only question which could have been used to talk about Blarney Castle. Blarney are opening a poison garden, this year, and the head gardener has asked me for comments and advice on a number of points. They're going to use information boards to tell some of the stories about the plants and I've agreed they can use extracts from this site when making up the boards. I don't think they're planning a big opening because they don't want to build it up and then not have a good display for people to see.

You realise how quickly talk radio presenters have to change topic and mood. My interview followed discussions about the rule changes in Scrabble and chips and immediately after me they went on to the crisis in the Catholic Church.

4th April

Book Guild have warned me not to place too much emphasis on Amazon's rankings as they vary day to day. However, if I wanted to promote the book the way you see theatres promoting shows by picking their quotes carefully, it seems I could describe it as a 'Top 10 Bestseller'. That's because it is, today, No 8 in 'toxicology' on Amazon.

1st April 

Had a call from Newstalk Radio in Ireland wanting me to do a live by telephone interview with Sean Moncrieff on Tuesday, 6th at 1520. There is a listen live facility which you can access by going to the Moncreiff page on their website. (Opens new window.)

I mentioned Blarney Castle's new poison garden, opening this year, and, I think, that will come up in the interview.

30th March

Did a live by telephone interview with Hannah Murray of Talk Radio Europe at lunchtime today.

It seemed to go quite well. I must say Hannah asked some interesting questions about poison(ous) plants. They have a 'listen again' type feature on their website. Go to this page (opens new window) and select 30th March 1300 to 1400 from the dropdown menus. My interview starts at 13:07 and runs about 12 minutes.

They also have an online shop so you can order the book by clicking here (opens new window).

29th March

It's out there. The publishers told me that the publication date was just an indication but I was a bit surprised to find that the online retailers are, already, showing it as 'in stock'. So, you don't have to wait any longer. If you haven't pre-ordered your copy you should go now to your favourite online bookseller.

But hurry, it's going fast. No, really. One of the online retailers shows the number of copies available and, if that's correct, they've already sold half their stock.

With a widespread forecast of bad weather for the Easter weekend, it looks as though there will have plenty of time for reading.

27th March

I'm being interviewed on Tuesday, 30th March at 1210 BST, 1310 CET, on Talk Radio Europe's Hannah Murray Show. If you can't receive it as a broadcast you can listen online (opens new window).

26th March

Reviews have started to appear.

It's one thing getting people to consider writing a review but it still leaves the doubt about whether they will write or say something and, even worse, the worry about what they are going to say.

Today, the book got its first mention on the radio. It was the local Northumberland independent station and it was a former colleague, Tom Pattinson, who mentioned it but I was grateful, nonetheless.

Also, today, an online gardening magazine published a review. The Reckless Gardener has a section devoted to book reviews. They are written by Sandy Felton, who has been a journalist for over 30 years and, I assume, has read many more than the 28 books so far reviewed on the site. That means that I got a real thrill from reading 'one of the most fascinating gardening books that I have ever read'.

The link above is to the home page. It felt a bit narcissistic to give a link straight to the review. (Click here for the link between being narcissistic and daffodils.)

16th March

I got home from swimming this morning to find a parcel had been left. In it - the book! I hadn't expected to get any copies so soon as it's not officially published until late April. It was a pretty exciting moment and I'm very pleased with the look, feel and quality of it.

The publisher says there have been a lot of requests for review copies. Let's hope they turn into reviews.

12th March 

I've been down to Alnwick 'pitching' the book. The Alnwick Garden is the obvious place to sell it and, commercially, there's no reason why they shouldn't. The local Tourist Information Office seemed quite keen but they're in a temporary home so don't have a lot of room at the moment.

I saw a couple of people I used to work with and caught up on some of the news.

March 10th

I've just done my first telephone interview for a newspaper piece. The one question I tripped up on was 'Do you have a favourite?' I mumbled for a bit and then plumped for Strychnos nux vomica, mostly because it's proved so difficult to grow from seed or buy as a plant.

The thing is, there are so many different aspects to plants and their poisons that it is hard to choose one favourite. I've got a favourite based on appearance. Another when it comes to the folklore. Yet another if it's the favourite killer. And so on.

Still, I must give it some more thought as I'm sure it will come up again in other interviews.

Also today, the publishers have been in touch about an initial approach from a digital TV channel which is thinking of doing a short feature. We'll have to see if anything comes of that.

March 2nd 2010

I've had my first enquiry about doing a radio interview about the book. It came about in an interesting way.

The Alnwick Garden has asked for help in obtaining a Strychnos nux vomica plant. This has always been a key plant for the Alnwick Poison Garden but has proved impossible to obtain. I've tried a number of times to grow it from seed and then, when I finally got two plants growing, my lack of gardening skill meant I killed off the young plants as they were getting established.

As far as I know the only specimen in this country is in Kew Gardens but this plant is, I believe, under quarantine due to an infestation.

Anyway, the Alnwick Garden has decided to admit it doesn't have the plant and hope someone can locate one. (Part of me thinks it was a way of getting some media attention as much a real attempt to source the plant.)

As a result, I received an enquiry via this site from someone who wondered if I had any ideas. The enquiry, it turns out, came from a presenter on a BBC local radio station who, having seen the information about 'Is That Cat Dead?' has asked me to do an interview when the book is published.

I don't know if the Alnwick Garden PR effort will do it any good but I'm grateful to them for doing me some good.

February 22nd 2010 

The video turned out pretty well, I think. I wondered about putting captions on the plant segments in case people didn't know what they were but decided to leave them off.

While I've been making it, I realised that a chapter titles list might be of interest so here it is;

Chapter 1 - What’s it All About?
Chapter 2 - Why are Plants Poisonous?
Chapter 3 - What’s the Most Poisonous?
Chapter 4 - What is the Biggest Killer? Part 1
Chapter 5 - What Is the Biggest Killer? Part 2
Chapter 6 - Have You Got Something Undetectable?
Chapter 7 - But Aren’t These Used as Medicines?
Chapter 8 - Have They Been Used As Murder Weapons?
Chapter 9 - Do You Mind Me Asking?
Chapter 10 - Does Mandrake Really Scream?
Chapter 11 - Why Don’t We Buy the Poppy Crop In Afghanistan?
Chapter 12 - Should Local Councils Grow the Castor Oil Plant, Ricinus Communis?
Chapter 13 - Where’s the Cannabis?
Chapter 14 - Why Are Some Plants in Cages?
Chapter 15 - Why No Fungi?
Chapter 16 - Is That Cat Dead?
Chapter 17 - What is Rosemary Doing in a Poison Garden?

February 16th 2010

I'm working on a short video introduction to put on YouTube and here. I've got the perfect opening line 'Poison is back in fashion'. That was written, in the Daily Telegraph at the weekend, by William Langley in a piece about the Lakhvir Singh case (see the Aconitum napellus page) . I'm not sure that poison every really went out of fashion but I like the idea that people think it is a hot topic.

It's taking a bit of time to work out a structure for the video. I want to make people interested but I mustn't give away too much of what the book is about. Finding the right level of teasing is the hard part.

I've got a talk coming up on Thursday so I'll be focusing on preparations for that and putting the video to the back of my mind for a couple of days. I might try and video the talk and include a little of that to showcase the sort of stories which make up the book.

February 10th 2010

After deciding that the initial version of the back cover was a little too wordy, I've been sent a revision that not only makes it less cluttered but, by re-arranging the order, also moves the questions people ask about poison plants to the top so they'll be the first thing people read when they turn the book over. 

Seeing the publisher's page about the book adds another new level of excitement. It's all starting to be very real.

From April 2008 to Today

Once I'd hit on the structure of the book, it didn't take too long to identify the most interesting of the FAQs, to use the online acronym for 'frequently asked questions' and to put them in an order which, hopefully, will drawer readers through from start to finish.

A lot of the actual writing had, in effect, already been done when I was doing my research for the stories told during tours in the Alnwick Poison Garden but it was a matter of rechecking many of the stories and, often, taking staccato notes 'causes nausea and vomiting' and rewriting them in a more narrative style.

As soon as the first draft was completed, I did two things; I began work on the second draft and I began looking for a publisher. Every author will tell you that finding a publisher is not easy but, I think you'll agree, doing so in autumn 2008 as the economic downturn looked as though it could be an abyss was especially bad timing.

Finally, in March 2009, I submitted a sample to Book Guild Publishing and, in May, the contract was signed and the real work began.

Now, in February 2010, all the drafting, redrafting, editing, proof-reading, proof re-reading together with all the background material required for the jacket and the promotion is finished. What remains, between now and April is to hope people will show interest in reviewing the book and stocking it for sale.


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







A to Z Links

Introduction to the A to Z section
Abrus precatorius, rosary pea
Aconitum lycoctonum, wolfsbane
Aconitum napellus, monkshood
Actaea racemosa, black cohosh
Actaea spicata, baneberry
Aesculus hippocastanum, horse chestnut
Amanita muscaria, fly agaric
Aquilegia atrata, columbine
Aristolochia clematitis, birthwort
Artemisia absinthium, wormwood
Arum italicum, Italian cuckoopint
Arum maculatum, cuckoopint
Aspergillus fumigatus
Atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade
Brugmansia suaveolens, angel's trumpet
Bryonia dioica, bryony
Buxus sempervirens, common box
Camellia sinensis, tea
Cannabis sativa, marijuana
Catha edulis, khat
Chelidonium majus, greater celandine
Cimicifuga racemosa, black cohosh
Claviceps purpurea, ergot
Clematis vitalba, old man's beard
Colchicum autumnale, naked ladies
Conium maculatum, poison hemlock
Convallaria majalis, lily of the valley
Cynoglossum officinale, hound’s tongue
Daphne mezereon, spurge olive
Datura stramonium, thorn apple, jimsonweed
Datura suaveolens, angel's trumpet
Delphinium, larkspur
Digitalis spp., foxglove
Dracunculus vulgaris, dragon arum
Echium vulgare, viper’s bugloss
Eranthis hyemalis, winter aconite
Erythroxylum coca, cocaine
Euonymus europaeus, spindle tree
Euphorbia x martinii, red spurge
Euphorbia pulcherrima, poinsettia
Fritillaria spp., fritillary
Galanthus nivalis, snowdrop
Hedera helix, common ivy
Helleborus spp., hellebore
Heracleum mantegazzianum, giant hogweed
Hyacinthoides non-scripta, bluebell
Hyoscyamus niger, black henbane
Ilex aquifolium, holly
Jacobaea vulgaris, ragwort
Juniperus communis, common juniper
Laburnum anagyroides, laburnum
Lactuca serriola, prickly lettuce
Leucojum aestivum, snowflake
Lithospermum officinale, gromwell
Lolium temulentum, darnel
Malus 'John Downie', crab apple
Mandragora officinarum, mandrake
Mercurialis perennis, dog’s mercury
Narcissus, daffodil
Nepeta faassenii, catmint
Nerium oleander, oleander
Nicotiana sylvestris, tobacco
Oenanthe crocata, hemlock water dropwort
Papaver somniferum, opium poppy
Pastinaca sativa, parsnip
Polygonatum odoratum, angular Solomon's seal
Prunus laurocerasus, cherry laurel
Pulsatilla vulgaris, pasque flower
Ranunculus acris, meadow buttercup
Rheum x hybridum, rhubarb
Rhododendron spp.
Rhus radicans, poison ivy
Ricinus communis, castor oil plant
Rosmarinus officinalis, rosemary
Rumex obtusifolius, broad-leaved dock
Ruta graveolens, rue
Salix alba, white willow
Salvia divinorum, sage
Scutellaria laterifolia, Virginian skullcap
Senecio jacobaea, ragwort
Solanum dulcamara, woody nightshade
Solanum melongena, aubergine
Strychnos nux-vomica, poison nut
Symphoricarpos albus, snowberry
Symphytum spp., comfrey
Taxus baccata, yew
Toxicodendron radicans, poison ivy
Thevetia peruviana, yellow oleander
Urtica dioica, stinging nettle
Veratrum album, white hellebore
Verbascum olympicum, Greek mullein
Vinca major, greater periwinkle
Viscum album, mistletoe
Vitex agnus-castus, chaste tree