Deadly? Or Delicious?

Devil’s Trumpet (Datura sp.)
Devil’s Trumpet (Datura sp.)

Eating just a few leaves or berries will leave you writhing on the ground. Your mouth dries, your pupils enlarge, and you run a fever. Within minutes, you gasp as painful cramps turn into vomiting and diarrhea.  First your pulse races, then it slows, as does your breathing. Your head pounds, and then the hallucinations start. You’ve become paralyzed.

But soon, none of that matters any more—because you’ll be dead.

Happily, if you do manage to get to a hospital in time, there’s a good chance you’ll recover, although the symptoms can last up to three days. Eating an unidentified plant is never a good idea, but if it happens to be one of the more dangerous members of the nightshade family, it could be fatal. Continue reading “Deadly? Or Delicious?”

Meet the Apiaceae

Heracleum sphondylium ssp montanum - Cow parsnip_DBG LAH 058What do carrots, cilantro, celery, and poison hemlock have in common? Think like a botanist. How do the leaves look? What shape is the root? What about the flowers? Yes, they’re all members of the Apiaceae (aka Umbelliferae) family of plants. So are caraway, anise, parsley, parsnips, and a whole host of other familiar species.

Members of this family are relatively easy to distinguish. The most obvious feature is in the way their flowers are arranged—like an umbrella, with a stalk and a cluster of flowers on stems all springing from a central point.

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Amaranthaceae

Family Amaranthaceae has a lot of members—over 2,000 species. You will likely recognize many of them. Some are ornamental—think of the garden annuals Gomphrena, Ptilotus, and Love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus). The Celosias are also amaranths—you might know some of them as the old-fashioned flower Cock’s Comb.

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