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Poisonous Plants in GB

34 35 heMlocks, cowbAne dropworts to be avoided Family Umbelliferae. Hemlock Conium maculatum. Synonyms Herb bennet, kecksies. Cowbane Cicuta virosa. Synonym Water hemlock. Hemlock water dropwort Oenanthe crocata. Synonyms Horse bane, dead tongue. Fineleaved water dropwort Oenanthe phellandrium. Synonyms Horse bane, water fennel. Hemlock seeds illustrated above is a tall spotted stemmed biennial of hedge banks, woodland edges and stream sides. Cowbane and the water dropworts grow in wet places. People have mistaken them for root vegetables, celery and parsley. In Anglo Saxon hemlaec means shore plant which could equally refer to water hemlock or cowbane. Hemlocks purple spotted stem is said to bear the mark of Cain. The Greeks administered hemlock to Socrates and other alleged criminals, calling it konas meaning to whirl about. Containing the poison coniine, it paralyses causing death by asphyxiation though peculiarly it leaves the mind clear. The juice of the stem smells mousy, and even sniffing it too hard is dangerous. Greek and Arab physicians applied it to tumours and painful joints, and archaeology reveals that Augustinian monks at Soutra in Scotland probably used it as a general anaesthetic in the twelfth century. Cowbane containing cicutoxin and the various water dropworts are equally dangerous. Johnson tells us that in 1857 two farmers boys tried cowbane and were found paralysed in the fields next to some chewed root. They soon expired. Hemlock water dropwort resembles wild celery in appearance and smell, and in 1856 seventeen hungry convicts in Woolwich ate it with disastrous consequences. The yellow juice was once used as a rat poison, but both water dropworts had a variety of other medical uses. Hemlock Cowbane Hemlock water dropwort Fineleaved water dropwort
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