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