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Poisonous Plants in GB

38 39 AutuMn crocus Colchicum autumnale Family Liliaceae. Synonyms Meadow saffron, naked ladies. A grassland plant of lime soils. Unusually bearing white to purple flowers in autumn, but leaves and fruit the following spring. The leaves casually resemble wild garlic but they are deadly poisonous and have been gathered by mistake at the woodlands edge. Not related to the spice saffron, and not a true crocus at all. Autumn crocus was named after the land of Colchis in Greek mythology, home to Medea the witch. Traditionally this plant signifies the spot where Jove and Juno lay together, and in another tradition it marks the place where Medea spilled the Promethean salve usesd to make Jason invulnerable. The human race sprang forth from the clay suffused with this magical spillage. The ancients likened the effects of colchicum to arsenic. The ancient Egyptians, Persians, Greeks and Romans all used it for rheumatism and gout, and, like us were conversant with its dangers. Theophrastus tells how slaves ate small pieces to make themselves too ill to work. Still a source of medicine for gout today, its usefulness is currently being evaluated as a treatment for cancer. The whole plant contains the alkaloid colchicine, which prevents mitosis or cell division. Onset of gastric symptoms occurs 3 to 12 hours after ingestion. More serious complications follow on the second day as white blood cell production is inhibited, and the heart and vital organs are damaged. A painful death generally ensues over the course of several days.
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