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Poisonous Plants in GB

32 33 dogs Mercury Mercurialis perennis Family Euphorbiaceae. Synonyms Dogs cole. A perennial indicator species of ancient woodlands, also found as a garden weed and under hedge bottoms. Usually under one foot tall carpeting in groups of same sex plants. Male plants bear small green flowers held above the leaves, and female plants bear relatively similar flowers on shorter stems. Similar and related to the poisonous annual mercury. Causes severe poisoning which can result in death in a recent incident the leaves were mistaken for peppermint. Symptoms include visual disturbance, vomiting, drowsiness, twitching and diarrhoea. Mercury, the Roman messenger of the gods, presided over trade and led the souls of the newly dead to the underworld. Together with his Greek counterpart Hermes he was god of the crossroads, where herm posts were erected over much of Europe to act as shrines or omphali to the god, marking the intersection of the four directions with the cosmic axis. Dogs mercury was once employed for jaundice and as a purgative. Culpepper recommended it for sore eyes and blocked or infected ears. The juice was used as a nasal douche for chronic catarrh and mixed with sugar or vinegar by country folk for removing warts. The plant yields an antiseptic and a fine blue dye which can be used as an indicator of pH. Mercurial means changeable, and indeed the effects of mercury appear so on the one hand it is sometimes described as a pot herb, yet on the other a dangerous poison. Mercurialis annua, the annual mercury is similar in appearance though slightly less poisonous, and is rendered safe to eat in some parts of Europe following lengthy boiling with frequent changes of the boiling water.
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