Sisters in Crime Central Virginia 

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Plants and Death

April 13, 2016

THE FOLLOWING PERTAINS TO SOURCES FOR FICTION WRITING. NO INFORMATION SHARED HERE IS MEANT FOR ANY OTHER PURPOSE. IF YOU ARE UNTRAINED IN PLANT IDENTIFICATION, DO NOT CONSUME WILD PLANTS. RELY ON THREE SOURCES OF IDENTIFICATION FOR ANY WILD PLANT. SEEK PROFESSIONAL TRAINING IN WILD EDIBLES TO AVOID HARM.

 

What would a Lethal Lady write about? How about plants and death? As I approach my yard pruning duties (let’s call this HOBBY X), I cringe at the wild cherry tree (i.e., super weed). One GardenWeb poster called the wild cherry “weedy, weak, trashy trees. . . [that] do not make cherries.” The animus rubbed off on me from my husband who uproots them without mercy.  I did not become a convert to this “weed view” until I saw one little three-foot sapling grow to a ten-foot tree (I admit to hyperbole here) in one season—just over my fence, in a neighbor’s yard and just outside of my pruning dominion. So what’s the connection to death? Am I working myself up to crazed tree slashing? No. The wild cherry sticks in my mind because of the cyanide content of its leaves and pits. For reasons I don’t understand, it’s the wilted leaves that pose the most danger, and agriculturalists and animal husbandry professionals are great sources of information on this. Here’s a link to follow for more information -- equineguelph.ca/pdf/facts/Prunus%20Poisoning%20June%2026_08.pdf. Beware! Nature presents many poisons.

 

This leads to another of my hobbies (we’ll call this HOBBY Y) – wild edibles. My father was the supreme woodsman, and our meals, now and then, would include wild foods. Dad could whip up delicious meals including wild meats or fish and wild greens and tubers. This leads me to recount a story from my visit to Yellowstone where a ranger advised us to NOT eat wild foods. He told of several campers who died from eating wild carrots. I heard that wild carrots east of the Mississippi Rive are good, west of the Mississippi are deadly. Further investigation leads me to information that water hemlock can look like a wild carrot, and that’s a mistake you don’t want to make . . . and that you’d not make more than once! Here’s a site to get you started: wildwoodsurvival.com/survival/food/edibleplants/wildcarrot/.

 

 

The pièce de résistance of this post is that I nabbed an 858-page Physicians’ Desk Reference (PDR) for Herbal Medicines (year 2000) at a thrift shop recently (we’ll call thrift-shopping HOBBY Z). I was in heaven! Precautions and Adverse Reactions is my favorite section to read for any entry. The Overdosage sections runs a close second, and I find the Unproven Uses, Chinese Medicine, Indian Medicine, and Homeopathic Uses subcategories under Indications and Usage very enlightening. Did you know that Scarlet Pimpernel is a plant? Overdosage of Scarlet Pimpernel is characterized by a strong diuretic, diarrheic, and mildly narcotic effect. Who knew? The BOXWOOD entry cautions that the leaves have a nauseous taste and that toxic dosages can lead to severe clonic spasms and ultimately to . . . Well, we won’t go into that! I’m looking forward to hours of fun with my PDR. Virginia folklore refers to the use of many plants. What do you know, remember from childhood, or have come across in your research? Fiddleheads, anyone? Pass the dandelion greens, please!

 

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