A fas­ci­nat­ing ref­er­ence work for any­one who has a back­ground in medicine or a fas­ci­na­tion with plants, but comes with a word of cau­tion.

Gardens Illustrated Magazine - - Book Reviews - Re­viewer Matt Biggs is a Kew-trained gar­dener and pre­sen­ter.

Many plants make a pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tion to our ex­is­tence, pro­vid­ing clothes, food, hous­ing and trans­port – with­out them we would not sur­vive. But there are also plants with the power to kill and this fas­ci­nat­ing book is both ter­ri­fy­ing and ex­cit­ing in equal mea­sure.

The early pages set the scene, pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion on parts of the plant, what makes them poi­sonous and how tox­ins af­fect dif­fer­ent ar­eas of the body be­fore mov­ing on to the plants them­selves. More sin­is­ter sto­ries make a grip­ping read and the grue­some symp­toms of poi­son­ing are of­ten alarm­ing; thank­fully such hor­rors are tem­pered by a host of fas­ci­nat­ing facts. It is re­veal­ing, for ex­am­ple, that bad­gers are un­af­fected by Taxus seeds; that Agatha Christie once worked as a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal dis­penser; and that one should be wary of an ar­row poi­son that can bring down an ele­phant and of spread­ing honey on er­got-in­fested rye bread. Af­ter ne­go­ti­at­ing such ter­rors, you may find your­self check­ing your pulse by the fi­nal chap­ter: Turn­ing Foes into Friends, which de­tails the re­mark­able con­tri­bu­tion plants have made to heal­ing leav­ing you mar­vel­ling at their prow­ess as bio­chem­i­cal pow­er­houses and the im­por­tance of con­ser­va­tion.

The sci­en­tific nature of this book and its clear images make for a de­tailed, in­for­ma­tive ref­er­ence work for med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als, bal­anced with in­for­ma­tion that read­ers with a gen­eral in­ter­est in the sub­ject can to dip into at leisure.

As some­one who al­most died from ac­ci­den­tal plant poi­son­ing, I am acutely aware of the value of this book, its con­tents are a graphic re­minder that poi­sonous plants in our gar­dens should be placed, planted and han­dled with care.

PLANTS THAT KILL: A NAT­U­RAL HIS­TORY OF THE WORLD’S MOST POI­SONOUS PLANTS by El­iz­a­beth A Dauncy and Sonny Lars­son Kew Pub­lish­ing, £25 ISBN 978-1842466575

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