Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Poison

We think of carrots as being good for us, as indeed they are. But there are a few members of the carrot family which are very definitely to be avoided if you wish to maintain your good health. Among the worst offenders in this respect is to be found growing wild around the lakes of Straw's Bridge. I refer of course, to the Hemlock (Conium maculatum).
The wild members of the British carrot family can often look pretty similar to one another. Most have feathery leaves and flat-topped heads of small, white flowers. But the Hemlock is easily distinguished from it's close cousins, by the markings on its stems. Hollow and tall, the stems are usually spotted and blotched with reddish, purple markings.
The name 'Conium' comes from the Greek word 'konas', meaning 'whirl' and relates to the dizziness and vertigo-like symptoms which come from ingesting the plant. The plant is so poisonous, that even a small amount can result in respiratory failure, paralysis and death. How much is a 'small amount'? Well, as few as six fresh leaves or an even smaller amount of seeds or crushed root, may be fatal.
Such a beautiful plant to look at and a welcome sight in the countryside around here. But beware!!!
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