Death by Greenery Feb 13, 2017 3:07:50 GMT -5
Post by Joanna on Feb 13, 2017 3:07:50 GMT -5
Death by Greenery
In the photo above, daffodils and hemlock envelop a wooden “skeleton” as Cannibas sativa (marijuana) grows in a cage behind it at the Poison Garden – dedicated to plants that are fatal or narcotic – of Alnwick Castle in northeastern England.
In 2005, the Duchess of Northumberland added 100 killer plants to Alnwick Garden, which operates as a charity and attracts 600,000 visitors a year. The idea for a Poison Garden came from watching children lose interest during tours of the 14.8-acre site on the Duke’s estate. “Children love to hear about the gory side of the deaths of people who have eaten plants or been fed plants or injected themselves with plant material,” explains Trevor Jones, Alnwick’s head gardener. “That’s what captures the imagination of a child, and if you can do that, then hopefully you get them hooked on gardening.” Or maybe they’ll become writers of the macabre. Here’s what they might learn on a guided tour:
Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) is generally considered a weed, but if ingested, its roots or leaves can cause hallucinations, delirium, vomiting, convulsions or coma. When it flowers, its scent is so powerful that “people will faint when they get to a certain point in the poison garden, so much so that we now have a bench there so people can recover,” Jones says. “It gives off a very pungent smell and some people are very susceptible to it and pass out.” Henbane was one of the ingredients used in flying ointments with which witches anointed their bodies.
Monkshood (Aconitum napellus) is a popular perennial commonly found in gardens. Every part of the plant can kill. In 2004, a young Canadian actor, Andre Noble, died after eating Monkshood while hiking in Newfoundland. He mistook it for an edible herb. In 2010, a London woman was found guilty of murdering her ex-lover by sprinkling crushed Monkshood seeds in a curry. “People are still using plants to poison one another,” Jones notes. It’s the murder weapon of choice for Hannah McKay, a character in the hit series Dexter. In the Midsomer Murders episode, “Garden of Death,” a woman dies a horrible death after being force-fed Monkshood in a salad.
Angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia suaveolens) is extremely poisonous, especially its pollen. When ingested or inhaled, it causes hallucinations, delirium and coma. But you go out with a smile. “It’s supposed to give you an aphrodisiac effect before you slip into a coma and eventually die,” Jones says. “Ladies of the night used to use this to great effect … They’d put the pollen of the flower into a drink. The client would drink and start to hallucinate, and then fall into a deep sleep and dream all sorts of wonderful dreams. The next morning he’d pay the money, thinking he had such a fantastic night, and yet he never actually touched the lady.”
Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) grows around hedgerows and is considered a weed. The entire plant is toxic, though its shiny grape-like berries appear especially tempting. Three berries are enough to kill a child, Jones says. The Italian meaning of its scientific name – beautiful lady – is a reference to Venetian women who once used drops of the berry juice to dilate their pupils, believing it made them more attractive. But one drop too many and they’d go blind. A former warden of the Poison Garden, John Robertson, writes: “In September 2012, a German monk on a camping trip, ate some deadly nightshade berries after mistaking them for an edible fruit. He was discovered wandering naked by a hiker and rejected all attempts at assistance.” Deadly nightshade is another ingredient in legendary flying ointments.
Castor plant (Ricinus communis) is a common garden plant and its seed is used to make the laxative castor oil. But from the husk of the seed, deadly ricin powder can be produced. In 1978, Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov was killed when an agent suspected to be working for the KGB injected him with a ricin-laced pellet. Some believe the pellet was injected from an umbrella tip while Markov waited at a bus stop. “People get very frightened when they hear ricin. They think mass murder,” Jones says. But it’s a poor terrorist weapon because to kill, “it would have to be injected or forced into your body.”
Opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) is harmless, but morphine and heroin distilled from the sap of the seed head capsule can kill. Morphine was the preferred weapon of British family doctor and serial killer Harold Shipman.
Source: Sandro Contenta, The Toronto Star, February 12, 2017.
See also "The Murderous Mandrake": whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/1882/murderous-mandrake
"Medicinal Uses of Belladonna": whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/254/belladonna-medicinal-uses
"Ancient Art of Poisoning Making Comeback": whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/3772/ancient-art-poisoning-comeback