Poisonous Beauty

Woody Nightshade Solanum dulcamara

My better half saw this plant growing in a couple of different places in the garden.  We thought that it might be Deadly Nightshade, and a quick search on Google showed us this plant exactly, referred to in a number of different articles as Deadly Nightshade.  So that is what I thought I was dealing with.  I put on a thick pair of gloves and dug it out, put it in black bag and into the bin.  Foolishly I had some skin showing on my arms and just touching the plant brought my skin out in an itchy rash.  I mentioned all this to a couple of wise farmers on Sunday morning and they looked at me a bit quizzically.  So I went to the bookshelf afterwards and found “The Oxford Book of Wild Flowers”.  It turns out that this plant is in fact “Woody Nightshade”; it is poisonous (though not as poisonous as the “Deadly” version) and is a particular danger for children, pets and farm animals who might like to eat the egg-shaped berries.  I’m fascinated at how such a pretty flower can be poisonous, though that poison (from the berries) has been used for centuries to treat various skin ailments (didn’t do my skin much good) and even (in a dilution) to treat Rheumatism!

Foxglove Digitalis purpurea

In another part of the garden there is a much better known plant, the Foxglove.  I have always loved the flowers, I remember watching with delight as a child as bees scampered into the bell-shaped purple domes to emerge only to disappear once more (it didn’t take much to keep me amused)!  Also known as “Dead Man’s Bells” (because this is a poisonous plant too), the leaves produce a drug used to treat heart conditions.

I am ever amazed at the sheer variety and staggering depth of complexity found in Creation.  Similar to my reaction to the wonderful Gannets and Razorbills (see below), understanding more of nature brings  me closer to the One who spoke all this into being ex nihilo (out of nothing):

11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

(Genesis 1)

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