Poisonous plants can be pretty

Some of my favorite plants are poisonous. With so many attractive qualities, many look and smell so intoxicating it is difficult to understand why they have evolved to be so deadly to humans.
The oleander shrub comes in many varieties. The petite Nerium oleander is a dwarf cultivar that comes in salmon, red or hot pink. Originally from Europe, this plant tolerates the heat of the desert and blooms almost six months of the year from May to October.
Not being a bush lover, mainly because of what happens to shrubs when pruned with the power shears, these small shrubs are colorful, low maintenance and easy to take care of. This plant is also deadly to anyone ingesting it. All parts are poisonous and one leaf is enough to cause death in an adult human. The oleander contains the toxic glycoside oleandrin. This chemical is considered a cardiac glycoside and is very similar to that found in digitalis.
There is much data on the oleander and man has known about its toxicity for centuries. It was even used against Napoleon to poison the food of his troops during one of their campaigns.
Brugmansia Aurea, or Angel Trumpet, is another poisonous plant. One of my favorites, this particular small shrub or tree can live quite a while. An easy identification of this plant can be made from the tell-tale hanging flowers or Angel Trumpets. These flowers do not have much of a fragrance during the day while trying to conserve moisture but look out early evening and into the night. This prolific plant exudes a fragrance so intoxicating, the fragrance can be detected 30 to 40 feet away in the cool of the evening.
Originating from South America, there are some cultivars of this plant that can tolerate the cold and others that need dry warmth to flourish. The Brugmansia is a direct descendant or relative to the Jimson weed and has the same psyco-tropic effects upon humans.
Jimson weed or (Datura stramonium) is an annual that produces a white bell shaped flower similar to the Brugmansia. Originating in Asia, this plant can be found in the open fields above Swami’s from time to time as well as the open canyons along the coast. It was cultivated throughout Europe and spread by wandering gypsies who would use this plants seeds to intoxicate their clients before defrauding them.
During the middle ages, Jimson weed was very popular among professional murderers who would mix parts of the plant with a victim’s food or wine to achieve an easy kill. The symptoms of this poisonous plant are very similar to the effects of the Bella Donna plant or Atropa belladonna.
Hallucinations, dilation of the pupils, loss of memory and speech, convulsions and finally death are the resulting effects of an overdose from these plants. Many homeopathic potions have been created using very small parts of these plants to create the “look of love” in a woman’s eyes. In days past, women would take these remedies to seem more alluring to their courtiers because of the dilation effect this plant has upon the pupils of the eye. If your girlfriend has deep dark eyes looking at you over dinner, it may not be just because she loves you …
Two of my least favorite poisonous plants, poison oak and poison ivy, are definitely nothing to laugh at. As a kid I came in contact with the poison oak in the local mountains. It wasn’t any fun. Both plants secrete an oil that causes everything from slight swelling of the skin to rashes, blisters and open wounds on the surface of the skin. The biggest fallacy about these two plants is that this toxin can spread through your blood stream and pop up anywhere on the body. Some people believe that you can keep spreading the poison even after you have washed the affected body part.
This is not the case. Most victims walk through the plants or brush the oils on themselves after contact with the plant. If the oils have not been washed off, you can literally spread it anywhere you touch yourself. Be careful, plants really do have power.


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