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Poisonous Plants in GB

36 37 Fools pArsley Aethusa cynapium Family Umbelliferae. Synonyms Dog bane, dogs parsley, lesser hemlock. A casual annual weed of cultivation and waste ground sometimes occurring in large birdsown clusters. Short to medium in height, hairless and somewhat parsley like with white umbrella flower heads appearing in June and July. Each group of flowers possesses long green bracts which hang below, making them look bearded. Emits a characteristic mousy smell of hemlock when crushed. This plant can be mistaken for parsley, coriander or sweet cicely. The roots look like young turnips or radishes. In Greek mythology, Aethusa was a daughter of Poseidon and Alycone. She bore a son to Apollo, called Eleuther. Accordingly, aethusa became an epithet for a portico that was open to the sun, i.e Apollo. Charles Johnson, in British Poisonous Plants 1856, recounts how in 1845 an unfortunate child mistook the bulbous roots for garden turnips and ate them. She was seized with abdominal pain and sickness, and suffered from lockjaw, her death occurring soon afterwards. Another incident occurred in Germany and involved eating the leaves. Once again the patients jaw was immobilised, and death soon followed. Poisoning with this plant results in pain, excitation, confusion, blurred vision and pupil dilation, with inflammation of the mouth and throat, duodenal congestion and skeletal paralysis although the hearts action is unaffected. Historically this plant has been used to treat a range of problems affecting the digestive tract, for example and rather worryingly cholera infantum an often fatal form of childhood gastroenteritis. It has also been used as a sedative. Of the diverse active ingredients, toxicity is thought to be due to the presence of polyines or polyacetylenes.
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