How can I tell what’s poisonous and what’s not?
Special to the Whig
It is easy to be fooled by seemingly common and harmless plants in our gardens, especially if you are a gardener who is intrigued by the mystique of plants. It is truly amazing how one tiny seed contains all that is needed to sprout and grow 12 feet in a few months right before our eyes.
Plants provide habitat and oxygen crucial to the survival of all life forms. They are so versatile and beautiful to humans that we spend a remarkable amount of time selecting, growing, pruning, preening and arranging them in every imaginable scenario just for pleasure. Botanical gardens worldwide are a testament to our reverence.
Oh yes, did I forget to mention food? No plants, no food. Not only do plants provide for humans, but they do so for most of the animal kingdom and for themselves as well.
Another marvel is that plants do their work for free. Energized by the sun, they manufacture what is needed to sustain all life on the planet. But don’t become too enchanted by all this magic. One part of your favorite fruit may be beautiful, enticing, edible and tasty, while another part may cause pain and suffering to you or some other unsuspecting creature.
Be wary friends, treat unknown plants with respect and know many plants have means of defending themselves from predators. Plants can’t run away and hide or scream for help. Instead,
NORTH EAST — With Bambi Johnson, it’s always on to the next. Throughout her life, the 59-year-old has found success in several fields of the performing arts, including as a dance instructor and NFL cheerleader. Her latest is as producing artistic director at Milburn Stone Theatre.
In that role, she’ll unveil her first season of shows Saturday at the annual gala, a task that she said has her more excited than anything else. That’s not all that unusual.
In the months since taking over for former director Lee Lewis, who is recognized as having improved Milburn Stone’s number of shows and overall quality, Johnson has been injecting her own brand of energy into the theater. She’s hoping to integrate more with the college and the community.
While she’s saving specifics of the show schedule for this weekend’s unveiling, she said the 2017 season will include eight plays or musicals, including two by Disney.
“I’m not in this business to disappoint people, you know?” Johnson said. “I want to make people happy. I want people to walk away from a show and take something with them …. Art should move you. If it’s not to make you feel good, it should make you think.”
Johnson considers herself someone with both the blessing and the curse of high energy levels, depending on how you’d like to look at it. Her personality comes across as that of a much younger person, but she said she only sleeps around four to five hours a night. And according to her husband Eyvo Johnson, 52, that number is often even lower when she’s working on a show. they have a variety of ways to protect themselves, spines and thorns for instance. Another defense is found in the chemicals produced by various plants to ward off enemies.
Poisons are many plants’ favorite defense mechanism. Plants ‘know’ if they are being wounded or outright attacked. In response, some plants can release toxic compounds to signal to the offender to get lost or die. Some plants can also signal neighboring plants of a threat so they too will release a warning to repel destructive pests or attract beneficial predators.
This chemical signaling could save their lives but they can also cause illness or even death to firstname.lastname@example.org
other innocent creatures caught in the line of fire. Idioblasts (“crazy cells”) contain toxins and or sharp crystals that tear the mouth parts of those who dare to devour them helping protect the plant against herbivores.
Trichomes (leaf hairs) of the nettle for instance, not only disembowel the unsuspecting caterpillar but inject poison into the wound. Truly evil. A species of nettle in Indonesia is known to cause per- manent nerve damage. Hopefully it stays there.
Glandular trichomes in wild potatoes secrete oils that repel aphids and Colorado potato beetle. The insect lands upon the foliage and encounters trichomes that coat the insect with a sticky stuff, then the struggling bug initiates the release of a poison. Dead bug.
History tells us Oleander and other plants used as for healing by early medicine women led to the accusation of a witch or two. All parts of the Oleander plant are highly toxic, widely planted and considered invasive in some lo-
cations. Hmmm, poisonous AND invasive. The poisoning from this devious plant can lead to serious illness. Symptoms include skin rash, blurred vision, visual halos, diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, loss of appetite, irregular or slowed heartbeat, weakness, low blood pressure, confusion, dizziness, headache, fainting, depression, drowsiness, or lethargy, depression, loss of appetite.
About 6 percent of calls to the ASPCA hotline involve pets and poisonous plants. Understanding which plants pose a danger is the best way to keep them safe. Hun-
gry grazing animals may instinctively be tempted to nibble on dangerous plants in the pasture or attempt to venture to other nearby unmanaged pastures during droughts. Adequate forage and good pasture management are the best preventative measures.
Curious? Learn more. The Master Gardeners of Cecil County, together with the Horticulture Club at Cecil College, will sponsor an educational program featuring Lisa Murphy, professor of toxicology at the University of Pennsylvania, who will discuss poisonous plants in your landscape. Also, Sam Droege, a wildlife biologist from Patuxent Wildlife Preserve, will present the lives of native bees. This will happen Saturday, Oct. 8, at 10 a.m. in the Technology building auditorium TC-106 at Cecil College. Light refreshments will be available. Seating is limited. Admission is free. Call 410-9965280.
Each week, a Cecil County Master Gardener will write in to share their gardening experiences or answer a gardening question. To submit questions to the Master Gardener, send them to email@example.com.
Milburn Stone Theatre Director Bambi Johnson stands in front of the stage and listens to coworkers (not pictured).
The seed pod of a datura stramonium (also known as Jimson weed or Devil’s snare), opens to release its seeds. The plant can cause hospitalization or death if consume in excess of medicinal doses.