Poisonous Red and White Spotted Toadstools: Fly Agaric

Red toadstool with white spots

Early autumn is a great time to hunt for fungi, so I have spent some time searching for the most atmospheric of all, red and white spotted toadstools, in all the likely and less likely places I could think of near where I live. As often happens, when I was not searching, I glanced up and had the thrill of seeing twenty or thirty of them growing on a hillside in a narrow strip of mixed, light woodland on the edge of peaty moorland.

Toadstools are the fruiting bodies of underground mycelial networks. Happy to return to earth, they emerge only briefly after a rain, swelling rapidly to full size then rotting back after releasing spores from white gills on the undersides of their caps.

Fly agaric growing in moss and leaf litter

Continue reading “Poisonous Red and White Spotted Toadstools: Fly Agaric”

Another Colchicum Autumnale

Bold pink colchicum

Couldn’t resist sharing this picture of a potted colchicum, part of East Ruston’s extensive collection, even though I just learned that they are highly toxic plants. Even worse, their leaves can be confused with wild garlic, which tends to grow in the same areas. So, unlike many poisonous plants which have the potential to harm, but are never ingested, colchicums have been documented to kill.   Continue reading “Another Colchicum Autumnale”

Recreating Rappaccini’s Garden: an Eden of Poisonous Flowers

Floral tapestry

Spotted foxglove

I’ve been looking for pictures of plants to bring to life the garden created by Rappaccini, the twisted plant breeder of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s fable, and ‘as true a man of science as ever distilled his own heart in an alembic’. Rappaccini, like Frankenstein, used science to create a monster: his beguiling, innocent, but deadly daughter Beatrice. He and his daughter tend a collection of poisonous plants with heady, intoxicating fragrances that can wither and kill.   Continue reading “Recreating Rappaccini’s Garden: an Eden of Poisonous Flowers”