In Praise of Poisonous Plants

Convallaria majalis_Lily of the Valley_HudsonGardens-CO_LAH_5740Maybe hemlock has the right idea.

I’ve always avoided incorporating poisonous plants in my garden. When our children were small, I was worried that they would eat a leaf or berry. Now we have small grandchildren who come to visit. Years ago, back in California, we tore out the oleanders and privets, replacing them with artichokes, strawberries, and other “edible landscaping.”

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Locoweeds

oxytropis-lambertii_locoweed_kcs-co_lah_3438nefI was hiking on a nearby ranch last week when we came across some spectacular wildflowers. As I knelt to grab some photos, my plant expert companion remarked, “You know that’s locoweed. We should pull it out!”

What? Destroy these beauties? Why? I was about to receive an education.

Locoweed (or crazyweed) is the common name for two genera of western plants, Oxytropis (left) and Astragalus (also called milkvetch), both in the pea family, and both including some species that contain the toxin swainsonine. Swainsonine interferes with protein metabolism and causes nerve damage.

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