Friday, November 18, 2011

In case anyone's wondering where my sudden interest in poisonous plants came from, it's because I read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley. And no, I have NOT been researching poison so I can actually USE it. Just in case this wasn't obvious, I don't recommend testing these plants to see if I'm right. (Though I'm sure none of you were thinking about it... were you?)


Aconitium napellus

This blue flower is deadly. It has a poison similar to that of larkspurs and delphiniums (which, in big enough doses, can also kill you, although I don't think it's as deadly as aconite). It can be found growing throughout Europe and the United States. It is also known as monkshood, the name coming from the appearance of the sepal, which resembles a hood or helmet. The Nazis added aconite to their bullets to make them extra deadly.

Bleeding Heart

Dicentra spp.

This attractive flower resembles a heart with a drop of blood suspended from it. It contains alkaloid toxins similar to those of the poppy family. The alkaloid can cause seizures, nausea, and respiratory problems.


Convallaria majalis

All parts of this flower are poisonous, the bulbs in particular. It contains various cardiac glycosides and, when consumed, provides a reaction similar to that of foxgloves (which I discussed in my last post). Both plants have been used to treat heart conditions. Lily-of-the-Valley can lead to headaches, nausea, and even heart failure.

Deadly Nightshade

Atropa belladonna

Due to the name, "Deadly Nightshade", do I really need to tell you that this plant isn't something you want to put in your mouth? This plant can cause hallucinations and headaches, among others things (which include killing you.) The black berries, however, are very attractive. Rabbits and cattle can eat them with no side effects. However, this does not extend to humans. (Which goes to show you that, when stranded on a deserted island, watching what the animals eat will not help you much.) The name Atropa has an interesting route. The three Fates of Greek Mythology each had a role. Lachesis measured the thread of destiny at birth. Clotho spun the thread, controlling their destiny. Atropos chose the time and manner of death.