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Australian National Botanical Gardens

Australian National Botanical Gardens
* GPO Box 1777 * Canberra, Australia Capital Territory * 2601 * Australia * +61 2 6250 9599 * http://www.anbg.gov.au/ *

In the heart of Australia’s Capital Territory and City of Canberra is the Nation’s most exquisite National Botanical Gardens. Radiating like a gem in the midland plains, this fabulous collection of Eucalypti, plants, trees, shrubs, vines, orchids, and botany is any garden lover’s paradise. It is operated by the Australian Government’s Department of the Environment and Heritage. The park encompasses the largest living collection of native Australian flora in the world. The goal of the center is to understand, study, and promote Australia’s flora locally, regionally, and around the world; hosting a variety of botanical resources for researchers while protecting and cultivating endangered native plants. The Garden was first conceived in Canberra’s development plans of the 1930’s when the Advisory Council set up a framework for its development, planning a large site on Black Mountain. The first trees were planted in September 1949, though not opening its gates until October of 1970. The Gardens encompass over 90 hectares on Black Mountain, of which 40 is currently developed and embracing thematic sections in the park housing plants with shared taxonomy of over 5,500 cultivated species. The Gardens have a Rainforest Gully, a Rocky Garden, A Sydney Region Flora area, A Mallee Plants section, Banksias, waratahs, grevilleas, Callistemon, Leptospermum, Melaleuca, A Eucalypt Lawn, Wattles, and a Research facility, gift shop, and cafe. The National Herbarium is also on site housing the largest collection of dried, pressed, and recorded plant specimens in Australia. The facility manages several large plant databases of Australian plants based on its collections. For any botanist or plant enthusiast, the Botanical Gardens is a must see while in Canberra. “Extroadinary”. Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5. Visited on April 24, 2011 by Thomas Baurley.

Australian National Botanical Gardens: Botanical Resource Center

sign at the gardens: “Botanica Resource Center: Plant identification at your fingertips
The Botanical resource center is a learning place for visitors to discover, identify, and explore flor of the A.C.T. and southeastern N.S.W. This self help collection is available for use by students, plant surveyors, and people who want to learn more about plants. To explore this library of pressed plant specimens and computer plant identification resources contact the Australian National Botanical Gardens Visitor Centre.”

    Bibliography & Recommended Reading:

  • Australian National Botanical Gardens. ~ About Us. referenced in 2011 from website; ANBG: http://www.anbg.gov.au.
  • Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. ~ “Autralian Nationa
    l Botanical Gardens
    ; referenced in 2011 from website; author unknown. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org.

Plants, Species, Photos, and more information: Continue reading Australian National Botanical Gardens

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Eucalyptus


Eucalyptus Tree, Pine River Island, Canberra, ACT, Australia

Eucalyptus
Myrtaceae

Common Names:

“Eucalypts”, “Gum Trees”, “mallees”, “mallet”, “marlock”, “Apple Box”,

Taphonomy/Taxonomy:

Over 700 Species.

Localities:

Native to Australia, New Guinea, and Indonesia. Might be native to the Archipelagos of the Philippines as well as Taiwan. With over 700 Species, 691 are found in Australia, and 15 of the species can be found outside of Australia, with only 9 species not local to Australia. Eucalyptus species are found cultivated in other parts of the world, especially in tropical/subtropical regions in the Americas, Europe, the Mediterranean, Africa, the Middle East, China, and India.

Description:

One of the most dominant fast growing trees found in Australia, the Eucalypus is a diverse species of Myrtle Family trees and shrubs.Single stemmed with a crown forming a minor proportion of the tree height for the trees found in forests, and single stemmed with short branches above ground level for those in the woodlands. Those that are multi-stemmed from the ground level but rarely taller than 10 meter height are called “Mallees” and have crowns at the ends of the branchlets. Leaves are lanceolate shaped, alternate, petiolate, and waxy/glossy evergreen though some tropical species lose their leaves during termination of a dry season. The leaves are covered with oil glands. Mature trees have numerous full leafs and are towering giants offering patchy shade as the leaves droop downwards. Leaves of the seedlings are sometimes sessile, glaucous, and opposite. There are numerous differences between species. The flowers are very distinct for the Eucalyptus as well as its capsule/gumnut fruit. White, cream, pink/red, or yellow fluffy stamened flowers with no petals enclosed by a operculum cap composed of fused petals, sepals, or a combination. When the stamens expand, the operculum breaks off splitting from the cup-like flower base and is what gives to the naming of the tree. Fruis are cone-shaped, woody with valves at its ends that release the seeds. Full or Half Barks can range from smooth to textured, stringybarks, ironbarks, tessellated, boxed with short fibres, or ribbon barked with a satiny sheen as white, grey, green, copper, or cream colored. Dead bark can sometimes be retained in the lower half of the trunks/stems. Relating to the Gum Tree family as many species will release gummy sap where a break on a branch or the bark occurs. Its roots control sitting water, drainage, and irrigation. Some species of Eucalyptus are amongst the tallest trees in the world. The oils in the wood, bark, and leaves are highly flammable and can become explosive during forest fires.

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Gorse

 

 

 

 

Gorse

Ulex europaeus or common names: Gorse, furze, furse, or whin

Taxonomy: Kingdom: Plantae; Division: Magnoliophyta; Class: Magnoliopsida; Order: Fabales; Family: Fabaceae; Subfamily: Faboideae; Genus: Ulex; Species: U. europaeus; Binomial name: Ulex europaeus L.

Gorse is a common name for the Ulex europaeus, a genus of roughly 20 species of spiny evergreen shrubs that are native to Western Europe and Northwest Africa. It is closely related to the ‘Broom’ Family hosting green stems with small leaves. The plant is extremely dry in its branches and leaves – making it a severe fire hazard with an explosive burst with wildland fires. Because of the quick fire explosions and passing on of the waves of flames – gorse is very good at withstanding fire damage and spreads its seed pods best when torched by wildfire. Burnt stumps will sprout new growth from the roots. The branches host extreme spininess with shoots branching out 1-4 cms long. It can grow up to 2-3 meters tall (7-10 feet). Leaves of younger plants are trifoliate resembling a small clover leaf before they evolve into scales or small spines. All of the species host yellow flowers. Many of these species grow in sunny sites in dry, sandy soils. Flowers bloom from late autumn throughout the winter season with flowers strongest in the spring. Some gorse is always in flower and host a coconut-like scent. Gorse is the perfect environment for wildlife nesting and protecting its inhabitants from predators due to the dense thorny cover.
Culinary: The flowers are edible and often used in salads, tea, and in the manufacture of a non-grape based wine. It is high in protein and commonly used to feed livestock as fodder.
Common uses: Used as livestock fodder. Bundles of gorse used to fire traditional bread ovens. According to Jasmine ( jasmine@archaeosophia.co.uk / http://www.archaeosophia.co.uk ) “Gorse may also used in the vitrification of Iron Age hill-forts in Scotland; experimental archaeology has shown that the temperatures it can reach are high enough to turn rock to glass. The fires would have to be kept burning for about a week to maintain the process… In 1934, Vere Gordon Childe and his colleague designed a test wall that was 12 feet long, six feet wide and six feet high, which was built for them at Plean Colliery in Stirlingshire. “They used old fireclay bricks for the faces and pit props as timber, and filled the cavity between the walls with small cubes of basalt rubble. They covered the top with turf and then piled about four tons of scrap timber and brushwood against the walls and set fire to them. Because of a snowstorm in progress, a strong wind fanned the blazing mixture of wood and stone so that the inner core did attain some vitrification of the rock”. Modern foresters can attest to gorse fires raging across hillsides well in excess of 800 degrees centigrade on open ground – a covered, stoked fire fed over time would be capable of vitrification and gorse not only freely covers most Scottish hillsides, but is one species which seems to actively flourish after fires – the perfect renewable resource.” [Thanks Jasmine!]
Folklore: ‘When gorse is in flower, kissing is in fashion” is a common rhyme.

 

 

 


Gorse
The Curraugh, Kildare, Ireland

Our Official Page on Gorse is now located at: http://www.treeleavesoracle.org/treelore/gorse/.

Our Official Page on “Foxglove” is located at http://www.treeleavesoracle.org/treelore/foxglove/.

Photos are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without permission of authors Tom Baurley or Leaf McGowan. Photos can be purchased via Technogypsie.com at Technogypsie Photography Services for nominal use fees. Articles and Research papers are done at the Author’s expense. If you donate below, you’ll help contribute to the costs of the research that provided this article. Any Reviews can request a re-review if they do not like the current review or would like to have a another review done. If you are a business, performer, musician, band, venue, or entity that would like to be reviewed, you can also request one (however, travel costs, cost of service (i.e. meal or event ticket) and lodging may be required if area is out of reviewer’s base location at time of request).

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The Blarney Poison Garden


The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

The Poison Garden:
Blarney Castle, Ireland * 021-4385252 * vwww.blarneycastle.ie *

One of the most intriguing features of the castle grounds of Blarney Castle for a botanist, scientist, or herbalist is the castle’s “Poison Garden”. A collection of plants embracing the world’s most deadliest toxins, one can walk amongst danger and see, smell, and view from close proximity what plants take the lives of hundreds of thousands of human lives annually. The garden has been active since the 18th century and a popular tourist attraction along with the other gardens on the grounds as the estate extends to over 1,000 acres of gardens (the poison garden is just a small tiny yard). The garden is located hidden behind the Castle’s battlements. Some of the more toxic or illegal of substances are located within large black conical iron cages to protect them from the tourist and the viewer from their toxicity. Some of the garden’s plants are controlled substances and therefore heavily monitored. During my 2010 and 2012 visits, many of the caged plants were empty, including the cannabis specimen. This specimen was Taken by the local gardai in 2010. Upon a visit in 2013, the Cannabis plant is not only present but enormous.

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Cannabis plant, Blarney Castle’s Poison Garden, Ireland

Of the ones I photographed and wrote about below, are:

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Cherry Laurel



Cherry Laurel
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland


Cherry Laurel:
Prunus laurocerasus [ Plantae: Magnoliophyta: Magnoliopsida: Rosales: Rosaceae: Prunus: Prunus laurocerasus ]

Common Names:
Cherry Laurel, English Laurel

Localities:
Native to regions bordering the Black Sea in southwestern Asia and southeastern Europe, from Albania to Bulgaria east through Turkey and Iran. It is a invasive species in the United Kingdom and Pacific Northwest of the United States.

Species:
There are over 40 cultivars; Numerous varieties of Cherry Laural, Magnofolia is the large leaf’ed one, Otto Luyken is compact with abundant flowers, Schipkaensis is the hardiest wid spreading smaller leaved plant; Zabeliana has narrow willow type leaves.

Description:
A low, compact spreading evergreen shrub or upright small tree, with a maximum height of 20-25 feet and 18 feet width with 2-6 in long / 1/2 to 1 inch wide narrowly oblong smooth edged dark green above and paler green below leaves. The shiny leathery leaves flower into fragrant white 1/4 inch long flowers in narrow cylindrical clusters 2-5 inches long in late spring and summer. The flowers blossom into 1/2 inch long oval green drooping fruits that are believed to be mildly poisonous. It has a rapid growth patern coupled with being a evergreen, tolerant of drought and shade, thereby out competing and killing off native plant species making it an invasive species in some parts of the world.

Cultivation:
Can handle difficult growing conditions including shaded and dry soils.

Common Uses:
Common as a garden ornamental and a favorite in North American yards. Common in landscaping. Leaves repel weevils, fleas, and lice.

Culinary Uses:
Cherries are edible, but the rest of the plant can be poisonous. Leaves are used like bay leaves (laurel family) as a culinary spice albeit the leaves has toxins.

Medicinal Uses:
Most parts of the plant are poisonous including the seeds as they contain cyanogenic glycosides and amygdalin.

Magical Uses:
The leaves can be used to ward off evil spirits.

Folklore and History:


Cherry Laurel
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

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The Chaste Tree



Vitus agnus – Chastus – Chaste tree
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland


Chaste Tree:
Vitex agnus-castus [ Plantae: Angiosperms: Eudicots: Asterids: Lamiales: Lamiaceae: Vitex: Vitex agnus-castus ]

Common Names: Vitex, Chaste Tree, Chasteberry, Hemp tree, Abraham’s Balm, Chaste Lamb-Tree, Safe Tree, monk, or Monk’s Pepper

Localities:
Native of the Mediterranean region; woodlands of southern Europe and dry areas of western Asia.

Species:

Description:
The Chaste Tree is an sprawling deciduous aromatic tree or large shrub that grows height and equal width of 1-5 meters and is most notable for its aromatic flowers and leaves. Its palmately compound leaves and tender stem grow upwards of 10 cm with 5-7 fingerlike leaflets (similar in appearance to the leaves of a marijuana plant), blossoming into violet to blue to deep purple flowers and fruits on new wood in late spring and early summer that bear medicinal seeds.

Cultivation:
Best cultivated in warm temperate and subtropical regions, native to woodlands and dry areas requiring full sun or partial shade with well-drained soil.

Common Uses:
Is a popular fruit plant used to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development, and supports sustainable landscaping. Branches were used to make furniture.

Culinary Uses:
The seeds are sometimes used as a seasoning, similar to black pepper.

Medicinal Uses:
The seeds of the Chaste Tree are medicinal and harvested by gently rubbing berries loose from the stem. Leaves ,flowers, and berries are consumed as decoctions, tinctures, teas, syrups, elixirs, or raw and help interact with hormonal circadian rhythms, as a tonic for male/female reproductive systems, and improve fertility. It is a carminative, a anxiolytic, a aphrodisiac, and an anaphrodisiac. Extracts have proven effective in managing premenstrual stress syndrome (PMS) and cyclical breast pain (mastalgia). Low doses it is used to suppress sexual desire by inhibiting activation of dopamine 2 receptors, but in higher doses the binding activity is sufficient to reduce the release of prolactin thereby influencing levels of follicle-stimulating hormones and estrogen in women and testosterone in men. It is also described in literature as a fertility-promoting herb used as such from Ancient Greek times to increase odds of conceiving a baby and to reat symptoms associated with hormonal imbalance, skin conditions, and PMS. Science has found confirmation with this to help stimulate and stabilize reproductive hormones involved in ovulation, cycle balance, and menstrual regularity. A hot decoction of the seeds are used as a contraceptive.

Magical Uses:
Believed to invoke chastity and celibacy, quieting desires of the flesh.

Folklore and History: Called Monk’s Pepper as it was once used by monks as a anti-libido medicine to remain chaste – which gave name to the Chaste Tree. It was believed in ancient times to be a anaphrodisiac though others claim it to be an aphrodisiac. The Chaste tree was associated with various Greek festivals – especially one held in honor of Demeter, the Greek Goddess of agriculture / fertility / marriage / and women who remained chaste during the festival who used tree blossoms to adorn the temples during the festivities. Roman virgins carried twigs of the tree as a symbol of their chastity. Hera, the Goddess protectress of marriage, was born under as chaste tree. Pliny claimed it “checks violent sexual desire”. Also said if one keeps a twig in their hand or in their girdle won’t suffer from chafing between the thighs.

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Foxglove: Digitalis L.


In the field at Lanyon Quoit, Cornwall, England

Foxglove

Digitalis L.; common names: ‘Witches’ Gloves’, ‘Fairy’s Glove’, ‘Gloves of Our Lady’, ‘Virgin’s Glove’, ‘Fairy Caps’, ‘Folk’s Glove’, ‘Fairy Thimbles’, ‘fairy-folks-fingers’, ‘lambs-tongue-leaves’, ‘bloody fingers’, ‘deadman’s bells’.

Taxonomy: Kingdom: Plantae; Angiosperms; Eudicots; Asterids; Lamiales; Plantaginaceae; Digitalis L.; several species including: Digitalis cariensis; Digitalis ciliata; Digitalis davisiana; Digitalis dubia; Digitalis ferruginea; Digitalis grandiflora; Digitalis laevigata; Digitalis lanata; Digitalis leucophaea; Digitalis lutea; Digitalis obscura; Digitalis parviflora; Digitalis purpurea; Digitalis thapsi; Digitalis trojana; Digitalis viridiflora.

This beautiful plant has meant a lot to me through my life – mainly because it saved my daughter’s life. As my daughter was born premature, her heart didn’t close/form properly before arrival – and the first part of her life she had to take dijoxin which is formulated from the Foxglove plant. What a wonderful essence on this planet. Digitalis or Foxglove, is over 20 species of herbaceous perennials, biennials, and shrubs that are native to western Europe, western/central Asia, and northwestern Africa. Leaves are spirally arranged, simple 10-35 cm long/5-12 cm broad grey-green downy with fine toothed margins forming a tight rosette during the first year of the plant’s life. Second year plants are typically 1-2 m tall with showy, terminal, elongated cluster leaves with tubular, pendant, and colorful flowers that are spotted within the flower tube’s bottom. The numerous tubular flowers bloom off a spike ranging in color from purple to white during the summer months. Flowering occurs usually early summer with some flower stems developing later in the season. “Digitalis” means “finger-like” describing to the ease with which one of its flowers can be fitted over a fingertip. The folk name “fox glove” may come from its similar shape and appearance to the ‘foxes glew’, a historic instrument that consisted of a ring of bells hung on an arched support. Its tubular flowers blossom off a tall spike. The colors of the flowers vary from purple to pink, white, and yellow. Digitalis purpurea, aka “Common Foxglove” is the most common species that is grown often as an ornamental plant. Common foxglove produces only a stem with long basal leaves. It grows in acidic soils under partial sunlight to deep shade, found commonly along roadsides, open woods, woodland clearings, moorlands, bogs, heath margins, sea-cliffs, rocky mountain slopes, and hedge banks.

Cultivation:
Foxglove prefers partial shade in a well-drained acidic soil that is rich in humus. Established plants will tolerate dry shade. The plant is susceptible to crown rot and needs adequate drainage.

Common uses:
Foxglove is common to gardens for its flowers and appeal.

Medicinal: Digitalis is the main ingredient in the cardiac glycoside “digoxin”. ‘Digitalin’ is also a group of cardiac medicines extracted from foxglove. These are used to treat heart conditions by increasing cardiac contractility and as an antiarrhythmic agent to control the heart rate, particularly in irregular or fast atrial fibrillation. Some use digitalis as a weight loss aid even though this is proven unsafe. Folklorists have also suggested its success with epilepsy and other seizure disorders. Historically used for heart treatment. It has also been employed in the treatment of internal hemorrhage, in inflammatory diseases, in delirium tremors, in epilepsy, in acute mania and various other diseases, with real or supposed benefits. It is also a powerful diuretic and valuable remedy for dropsy. County Cork, Ireland it was found to be handy in taking the soft leaves at the plant’s center to utilize for healing cuts. It is for strengthening the heart and regulating heartbeat.


Foxglove

Safety: Very toxic, those suffering an overdose of digitalis may experience anorexia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and sometime xanthopsia (jaundiced or yellow vision) with the appearance of halos or blurred outlines. Bradycardia can also occur. Depending on the species, it may contain several deadly physiological and chemically related cardiac and steroidal glycosides which lead to the folk names “Dead Man’s Bells” and “Witches Gloves”. The entire plant is toxic including roots and seeds. A nibble can be enough to cause death. Symptoms include but are not limited to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, wild hallucinations, delirium, severe headache, irregular and slow pulse, tremors, various cerebral disturbances, especially of a visual nature, convulsions, and deadly disturbances of the heart. The plant is toxic to animals including all classes of livestock and poultry, as well as felids and canids.
Other uses: Ornamental plant found in gardens. Development of poison through history. Domestic use of the leaves to darken the lines engraved on stone floors creating a mosaic like appearance. 19th century Dubliners dried the leaves and used it as snuff by old women.
Folklore: Northern legends stating that bad fairies gave these blossoms to the fox so that s/he might put them onto their toes to soften tread when prowling among the roosts. Other legends state that the blossoms are to mark where the elves had placed their fingers or that they were warning signs for the baneful juices secreted by the plant as in Ireland’s name for it as “Dead Man’s Thimbles”. Irish folklore considered it unlucky to bring into the home. The Latin “Digitalis” translates to “measuring a finger’s breadth”. It was named after “Fox glove” after “folk’s glove” whereas folk referred to woodland faeries and believed to be their gloves that they wore during raids on chicken coops blaming the thefts on thieves.


Foxglove near Lanyon Quiot, Cornwall, England

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Black Cohosh


Black Cohosh
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Black Cohosh
Article by Thomas Baurley, Technogypsie Productions © November 23, 2010 published – all rights reserved.
Original and extensive article at http://www.treeleavesoracle.org/treelore/?p=1215

Cimicifuga racemosa, Actea racemosa [ Plantae: Magnoliophyta: Magnoliopsida: Ranunculales: Ranunculaceae: Actaea: Cimicifuga racemosa, Actea racemosa ]

Common Names: black cohosh, black bugbane, black snakeroot, macrotys, bugbane, bugwort, rattleroot, rattleweed, or fairy candle

Localities:
North America; extreme south of Ontario south to central Georgia; west to Missouri and Arkansas; Found throughout areas of eastern and central United States.

Species:

Description:
Black Cohosh is part of the buttercup family. It is a tall smooth glabrous herbaceous perennial plant that has large compound leaves sprouting up from an underground rhizome reaching a height of 25-60 centimeters. Its leaves grow upwards of 1 meter long and broad in repeated sets of three leaflets and having a coarsely toothed serrated margin. It blossoms flowers in late spring and early summer on a tall stem roughly 75-250 cm tall forming racemes upwards of 50 cm in length with no petals or sepals, rather tight clusters of 55-110 white 5-10 mm long stamens surrounding a white stigma and hosting a sweet fetid smell attracting flies, gnats, and beetles. It produces a dry follicle fruit 5-10 mm long with a carpel containing several seeds.

Cultivation:
The plant grows in a variety of woodland habitats especially small woodland openings. In a garden, best sown in dependably moist fairly heavy soil.

Common Uses:
The juice of the plant is used as an insect repellent.

Culinary Uses:

Medicinal Uses:
Extracts have analgesic, sedative, and anti-inflammatory properties. Roots and rhizomes used primarily for women’s health, it was used by Native Americans and is currently used for menstrual cramps, hot flashes, arthritis, muscle pain, sore throats, coughs, kidney problems, depression, and indigestion. A salve made of Black Cohosh is used to treat snake bites. Today in herbal healing and homeopathy, it is used to treat hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats, vaginal dryness, menopause, menstrual cramps, menopausal symptoms, mood disturbances, heart palpitations, and bloating. It is the fresh or dried roots and underground stems (rhizones) that is used for herbal treating. Its active chemical compound is 26-deoxyactein. Science has found that Black Cohosh will improve some menopausal symptoms short term for upwards of six months. It hasn’t been determined as per the safety in used for pregnant or breastfeeding women or children. It is sometimes used by midwives to induce labor. It is not recommended for those with hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, ovaries cancer, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, hormone replacement therapy, oral contraceptives, using cisplatin for chemotherapy, or other conditions without discussing with a physician first. Side effects can include indigestion, headaches, nauseau, perspiration, vomiting, heaviness in the legs, weight gain, and low blood pressure; while excessive use could cause liver damage, seizures, visual disturbances, and slow or irregular heartbeats. Black Cohosh also contains salicylic acid, so is reactant to those allergic to aspirin or salicylates.

Magical Uses:

Folklore and History: Traditionally Black Cohosh was used by various Native American tribes as a folk remedy for women’s health conditions. It is believed to possess estrogen-like essences and therefore very helpful in treating women concerns, and while it works, science has not yet been able to explain its process of success.


Black Cohosh
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

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Castor Oil Plant: Ricinus communis


Castor Oil Plant
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Castor Oil Plant
Ricinus communis [ Plantae: Magnoliophyta: Magnoliopsida: Malpighiales: Euphorbiaceae: Acalyphoideae: Acalypheae: Ricininae: Ricinus communis ]

Common Names: Castor, Castor Oil, Bofareira, Castor Oil Plant, Castor Bean Plant, Mexico Seed, Oil Plant, Palma Christi, Pei-ma

Localities:
Originally native to Eastern Africa, southeastern Mediterranean Basin, and India, now cultivated throughout hot climates around the world especially Africa and Southern Asia.

Species:

Description:
The Castor Oil plant is an evergreen shrub or tree that grows upwards of 30-40 feet tall naturally, and found smaller in the cultivated varieties. The plant produces large broad deeply lobed purple-bronze to gray-green/dark maroon palm-shaped leaves off long stalks that blossom green petalless female flowers born on clusters above the male flowers that give birth in development to prickly bur-like capsules containing three red seeds.

Cultivation:
Seeds are gathered annually when ripe and soaked in the sun for maturity.

Common Uses:
Throughout Europe and America, it is used as a foliage plant for gardens. It was used by the Egyptians as a lamp oil. Because it has a low freezing point, it is used to lubricate airplane engines, in hydraulic brake fluids, biodegradable laundry detergents, paints, and varnishes. It is now used as a biodiesel. The seeds are used by kids for slingshot balls. The seeds are also used in jewelry for necklaces and bracelets (though highly not recommended due to toxicity).It is used for lubrication, burning, and leather dressing.

Culinary Uses:
Processed, the oil is used to create polyglycerol polyricinoleate (PGPR) as an additive or substitute for cocoa butter in chocolate production.

Medicinal Uses:
The ancient Egyptians used the castor oil as an unguent and to purge their systems three times a month by drinking the oil mixed with beer. Because the oil is so poisonous, the Greeks and Romans used the oil only externally. By the 18th century it was used as a laxative. The castor oil bean contains one of the world’s most deadliest toxins – ricin. Seeds contain glycerides of ricinoleic acid, ricin, ricinine, and lectins. A single bean ingested can kill a child. Two beans can kill an adult. If poisoned, symptoms may be delayed upwards of 36 hours, but can start to appear within 2-4 hours causing a burning sensation in mouth and throat, abdominal pain, purging, and bloody diarrhea. Severe dehydration and a drop in blood pressure and decrease in urine appear within several days, and deeath within 3-5 days if not treated. It is pretty easy however to extract the oil from the bean bypassing the ricin by hulling and crushing the seeds below 100 degrees Fahrenheit, yielding a clear yellowish poison-free oil rich in ricinolein that irritates the intestines. This is where it is invaluable as a laxative or purgative. It prompts a bowel movement within 3-5 hours after ingestion. It is used medicinally to clear the digestive tract of poisoning. It is tolerated by the skin and thereby found in medicinal and cosmetic preparations. In India, the oil is massaged into breasts after childbirth to stimulate milk flow, or as a poultice to relieve swollen and tender joints. The Chinese use crushed seeds to treat facial palsy. The ancients used the oil to improve hair growth and texture, and to brighten the whites of eyes.

Magical Uses:
Castor oil was used in sacrifices to please the Gods.

Folklore and History: Evidence found in 4,000 year old Egyptian tombs contained small glossy mottled 1/2 inch or less long polished castor beans that had religious significance from the beginning of civilization. “Ricinus” is Latin for “tick” because it has markings and a bump at its end of the seed that resembles ticks. “Castor Oil” comes from its use as a replacement for “castoreum” a perfume made from the dried perineal glands of beavers. Also related to the common name of “Palm of Christ” derived by its reputation to heal wounds and cure ailments. Used in India since 2,000 BCE for lamp oil and as a laxative, purgative, and cathartic.


Castor Oil Plant
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

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Common Box



Common Box
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland


Common Box
Buxus sempervirens [ Plantae: Magnoliophyta: Magnoliopsida: Buxales: Buxaceae: Buxus: Buxus sempervirens ]

Common Names: Common Box, European Box, Boxwood.

Localities:
It is native to coastal regions especially in western and southern Europe, Northwest Africa, southwest Asia, from southern England south to northern Morocco and east through the Mediterranean to Turkey.

Species:

Description:
The Common Box is a very dense small-leaved evergreen, growing usually naturally in coastal regions, and loves chalky soil. It hosts dark green to yellow-green oval glossy leathery leaves arranged in opposite pairs upwardcs of 15-30 mm long and 5-13 broad, that is home to a unusual sweet smell that gives blossom to small tufty yellow flowers in late winter. The flowers are hermaphrodite and inconspicuous, greenish-yellow, with no petals or insect pollinated and bears a 3-lobed capsule bearing fruit that contains from 3-6 seeds. It is slow growing and shade tolerant. It grows upward of 1-9 meters tall with upwards of a 20 cm diamtere trunk. The box loves soil derived from chalk, limestone, and is often found as an understory in forests of larger trees.

Cultivation:
Box works best in most normal soils, especially chalky soils, and where it can reach its ultimate height of 30 feet. Its used to being exposed to the wind absorbing that impact. It grows 4-6 inches a year on average, likes dry shade and wet sites.

Common Uses:
Commonly usd for topiary work, landscaping, and gardening especially as hedges. Wood is very hard and heavy which puts excellent applications as a base wood for cabinets, clarinets, engravings, marquetry, woodturning, tool handles, mallet heads, and as a substitute for ivory.

Culinary Uses:

Medicinal Uses:
The leaves were once used as an alternate for quinine and used to reduce fevers. Box contains the alkaloid “buxine” that causes vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea, muscular spasms, and paralysis. The leaves are poisonous. Also planted to keep livestock out of gardens. Oils from the leaves can cause skin rashes. Buxine will also cause respiratory paralysis in humans and livestock. Some of it has also been used as a chemotherapeutic agent in cancer therapy. French works claim an extract made from Box is helpful in reducing the amount of HIV virus in an infected person.

Magical Uses:

Folklore and History: The plant is named after the latin name “Buxus” for “box” because of its use in making small, finely carved boxes called “pyxos” in Greece. “Buxus” is also Latin for “Flute”. “Box” is believed not to be able to be read by sorcerers and witches who usually can tell you the numbers of every branch, twig, and leaf of every plant – but box. Apparently the “Box” is so compact that when a witch tries to count the tiny leaves, she loses her place and has to start again. It is believed to be planted by doorways to prevent witches from entry – as it should captivate the witches attention and have them stop to count the leaves over and over again forgetting about entry into the house. Also planting in a flower bed will distract witches wishing to steal plants as it is an ingredient in flying ointments.


Common Box
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

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European Mandrake



European Mandrake
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland


European Mandrake
Mandragora officinarum [ Plantae: Solanaceae: Mandragora officinarum ]

Common Names: Alraunwurzel, Mandrake, Satan’s Apple, mandragora, love apple, Circe’s plant, Dudaim.

Localities:
European Mandrake is native to southern Europe, particularly the Mediterranean, and especially Greece and Italy. Found often in uncultivated fields and stoney wastelands.

Species:

Description:
A stemless plant that hosts a short brown thick massive root grouping spreading downwards of 3-4 feet deep similar looking like parsnip. The short stem is topped by ovate leaves, blossoming with small greenish-yellow or purple bell-shaped flowers off 3-4″ stalks bearing fruit of orange color fleshy berries. Its often confused with the American Mandrake (may apple), which it has no relation to, except similar fleshy yellow-orange fruits. The roots are often forked look like a human body shape with head, arms, and legs.

Cultivation:
Can be grown from seed in deep planters. Seeds usually germinate within 14 days. Does best in deep well drained soil and full or partial sun exposure.

Common Uses:

Culinary Uses:
In Israel the fruits are used to make alcohol.

Medicinal Uses:
European Mandrake is considered one of the most magical herbs in the apothecary. It is an soporific, anesthetic, emetic, anodyne, Parasympathetic depressant, hallucinogen, hypnotic, and a poison. It is used as a narcotic and a pain reliever. It eases rheumatism. It is used often for sex and fertility magick. European Mandrake is used to treat melancholy, as an emetic, and an anesthetic. It is also very poisonous. The fruits are known to increase sperm count, treat impotence, and as a sex enhancer. Popular anesthetic during the Middles Ages and as a narcotic during the Elizabethan period.

Magical Uses:
In Israel the fruits are made into a aphrodisiac and to boost fertility. Known to heighten female interest in sex. European Mandrake is also used to expel demons. A mandrake root placed in the home will protect it from evil spirits. Money stored near European Mandrake will increase its abundance and increases prosperity. Also used for healing, inducing love, facilitating pregnancy, and restful sleep. It enhances creativity, psychic awareness and abilities. THe root carved into amulets of protection, love attraction, aura purity, and as a emblem of magick. Used to create “Moon Water” by taking a piece of the root under moonlight to be submerged into a chalice of water.

Folklore and History:Because of the anthropomorphic shape of the root, much belief in the root being a humanoid spirit is found in the magical repertoires that if one uprooted it from the ground it would shriek and screams so intense it would cause death unto those who heard it or make them go insane. Many collectors would loosen the soil around the root, attach a cord to the collar of a dog, and have the dog pull the root from the ground otherwise collected in moonlight with a proper prayer and ritual. Believed human hands should not come in contact with he plant. It is used to invoke Circe, Diana, and Saturn. It is related to the element of fire and the planet Mercury.


European Mandrake
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

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Opium Poppy: Papaver somniferum


Opium Poppy
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Opium Poppy
Papaver somniferum [ Plantae: Magnoliophyta: Magnoliopsida: Ranunculales: Papaveraceae: Papaver: Papaver somniferum ]

Common Names: poppy tears, lachryma papaveris.

Localities:
Grown ornamenatlly throughout Europe, North America, South America, and Asia.

Species:
There are many varieties of Poppy that varie from species to species, most notable through shape of the petals, numbers of flowers, fruits, seeds, colors, and production of opium.

Description:
The Opium Poppy, is a world class illegal drug that is derived from Papaver somniferum.

Cultivation:
To cultivate the Opium Poppy in the UK does not require a license, but does require one if you plant to extract opium for medicinal purposes. It is illegal to extract opium or any of the alkaloids in Italy and in the United States its a Schedule 2 controlled substance even prohibiting opium poppy and poppy straw. It is not enforced for poppies that is grown or sold as ornamentals or for food even though opium tea with high morphine content can be abstracted from poppies found at flower shops.

Common Uses:
It is a real popular plant for ornamental purposes, especially as the “common garden poppy”. Used as gifts or ornamentals in flower shops and gardens. Poppy seed oil is used for the manufacture of paints, varnishes, and soaps.

Culinary Uses:
Poppy seeds are an important food item and is the source for poppyseed oil. The oil is used widely for cooking oil. The seeds are very common to be found on muffins, breads, pies, and bagels. If someone consumes four poppy seed bagels, they could test positive for narcotics. Poppy seed paste (made from oil and seeds) is used in a nut roll called Polish makowiec. Poppy seeds are commonly used in North and South Indian Cuisine and are called “gasagasa”, “khuskhus”, “gasagasalu”, and “posto dana”. They are also commonly used in curries.

Medicinal Uses:
Opium is the source of many opiates in drug culture and pharmaceutical medicine such as morphine, thebaine, codeine, papaverine, and noscapine. It is a astringent, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, diaphoretic, expectorant, hypnotic, narcotic, and sedative. Opium was used throughout history for treating asthma, stomach sickness, and bad eyesight. Opium is the dried latex that comes from the opium poppy. This substance contains upwards of 12% morphine, an alkaloid used to produce heroine. Opium, morphine, and heroine are used as pain relievers, tranquilizers, and sleep aids. Poppy was also used for toothaches and coughs.

Magical Uses:

Folklore and History:

The latin name means “sleep bringing poppy” which describes the sedative properties of the plant. Images of poppies are found on Sumerian artifacts over 4,000 years old. It was known to the Ancient Greeks who manufactured opium from it and found archaeologically at Kalapodi and Kastanas. In the 1830’s, Britain and China had wars over the sale of Opium called “The Opium Wars”. Late 1800’s to early 1900’s narcotic alkaloids morphine and codeine were available in over the counter drugs such as cough syrup and teething medications.


Opium Poppy
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Continue reading Opium Poppy: Papaver somniferum

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Poison Hemlock



Poison Hemlock
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Poison Hemlock
Conium maculatum [ Plantae: Magnoliophyta: Magnoliopsida: Apiales: Apiaceae: Apioideae: Conium maculatum ]

Common Names:
Hemlock, Poison Hemlock, Devils’ porridge, beaver poison, herb bennet, musquash root, poison parsley, spotted corobane, and spotted hemlock, California fern, deadly hemlock, Nebraska fern, poison parsley, poison stinkweed, snake-weed, spotted hemlock, wode whistle.

Localities:
Native to Europe and the Mediterranean, West Asia, North as well as South Africa. It is naturalized in other parts of Asia, North America, Australia, and New Zealand.

Species:

Description:
Poison Hemlock is a perennial herbaceous flowering plant that can grow upwards of 2.5 meters tall with a smooth green spotted or red/purple streaked lower smooth stem and finely divided, lacy, triangular leaves (similar to that of parsley) that can grow upwards of 50 centimeters long and 40 centimeters wide. The flowers are clustered in umbels up to 10-15 centimeters across and are small and white. When crushed, the leaves produce a rank, unpleasant odor.

Cultivation:
Commonly found in poorly drained soils near streams, ditches, and ponds as well as roadsides, cultivated fields, and waste areas. It is a highly invasive species in 12 of the United States so pay attention to this before planting or cultivating.

Common Uses:

Culinary Uses:

Medicinal Uses:
All parts of the plant is highly poisonous, to humans as well as animals, but once the plant leaves are dried, the poison potency is reduced. Hemlock contains pyridine alkaloids coniine, N-methylconiine, conhydrine, pseudoconhydrine and ?-coniceine. Conine has a chemical structure similar to nicotine and is a neurotoxin that disrupts the central nervouse system in humans and livestock. Ingestion can cause a burning sensation in the mouth, salivation, emesis, diarrhea, muscle tremors, muscular weakness, dim vision, convulsions, coma, and respiratory collapse leading to death. In ages past, Hemlock was used as a sedative and for its antispasmodic traits. It was used to treat arthritis. Overdose can produce paralysis and loss of speech, followed by depression of the respiratory function, and then death. Hemlock causes birth defects in swine, cattle, sheep, and goats.

Magical Uses:
Hemlock is very associated with British Witchcraft.

Folklore and History:
In Ancient Greece, Hemlock was utilized to poison condemned prisoners – the most famous of which was Socrates in 399 BCE. As Plato describes Socrates’ death: “The man … laid his hands on him and after a while examined his feet and legs, then pinched his foot hard and asked if he felt it. He said ‘No’; then after that, his thighs; and passing upwards in this way he showed us that he was growing cold and rigid. And then again he touched him and said that when it reached his heart, he would be gone. The chill had now reached the region about the groin, and uncovering his face, which had been covered, he said — and these were his last words — ‘Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepius. Pay it and do not neglect it.’ ‘That,’ said Crito, ‘shall be done; but see if you have anything else to say.’ To this question he made no reply, but after a little while he moved; the attendant uncovered him; his eyes were fixed. And Crito when he saw it, closed his mouth and eyes.” It has shown up in records to have an association with British Witchcraft. There is a long history about children accidentally being poisoned by it when they made whistles from the hollow stems.

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Delphinium



Delphinium
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Larkspur: Delphinium
Delphinium staphisagria [ Plantae: Magnoliophyta: Magnoliopsida: Ranunculales: Ranunculaceae: Delphinium: Delphinium staphisagria ]

Common Names:
Larkspur, Lark’s Heel, Lark’s Claw, Knight’s Spur.

Localities:
Found throughout the Northern Hemisphere and mountains of tropical Africa.

Species:
There are roughly 300 species.

Description:
Delphinium is a perennial flowering plant belonging to the buttercup family and is also called Larkspur. It has deeply lobed 3-7 tooth palmate shape leaves, has a erect flowering stem ranging from 10 centimeters in one species upwards of 2 meters in another and becomes topped with a raceme of multi-colored flowers ranging from purple, blue, red, white, and yellow. Purple is the most common color. Each flower has 5 petal sepals that grow together to create a hollow pocket with a spur at the end from late spring to late summer. Within he sepals are four true petals. It produces small shiny black seeds.

Cultivation:
Commonly pollinated by buterflies and bumble bees, larkspur can be cultivated by seed(though seeds require a pre-chilling to get germination going) . Larkspur prefers chalky loam soils and commonly grows wild in cornfields. Needs alot of full sunshine. It does crowd out others and steals the nurishments in the soil from other plants. Staking helps alot because it gives it support that it needs.

Common Uses:
Juice of the flowers, mixed with alum, creates a blue ink.

Culinary Uses:
Most species are toxic, but is a food source for a variety of moths.

Medicinal Uses:
All parts of the plant contain alkaloid delphinine and are very poisonous. Eating Larkspur can lead to vomiting and death. Early reports of drinking small amounts of larkspur helped against the sting of scorpions. Other herbals state the seeds can be used to compat parasites, especially lice and their nits. A tincture from Larkspur is used to treat eye diseases, asthma and dropsy.

Magical Uses:
In Transylvania it was believed to keep witches away from stables.

Folklore and History:
The Latin name relates to the Greek workd “delphis” for dolphin which alludes to the shape of the opening flower.

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Skullcap



Scutellaria luterifolia

The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Scutellaria laterifolia

Scutellaria laterifolia [ Plantae: Angiosperms: Eudicots: Asterids: Lamiales: Lamiaceae: Scutellaria: Scutellaria laterifolia ]

Common Names:
Blue Skullcap, Hoodwort, Virginian Skullcap, Mad-dog Skullcap

Localities:
Native to North America especially New York to West Virginia, south to South Carolina, Alabama, and Missouri; cultivated in Europe and the rest of the world.

Description:
Skullcap is a hardy perennial belonging to the mint family that grows upright 60-80 centimeters in height. The plant produces vivid blue flowers that grow upwards of 1 centimeter in length that are produced along the length of side branches off the leaf axils. The root is a creeping short rhizone that submits hairy square stems 6-18 inches high, branched often with opposite leaves being heart-shaped at its base 1/2 to 2/5 inches long wih scalloped or toothed edges. The plant produces racemes blue to lavender flowers on its leaf axils of the upper plant that are hooded, tube shaped, and two lipped from May to August.

Species:
There are over 350 species of Skullcap.

Cultivation:
Skullcap loves wetland terrain, especially marshes and meadows best in a sunny area and utilizing ordinary garden soil. Seeds should be sown in early spring after frost danger is gone.

Common Uses:
It is used commonly as a incense and herbal tea.

Culinary Uses:
It is used as a herbal tea.

Medicinal Uses:
Skullcap is most prominantly utilized as a mild sedative and sleep aid. Its leaves, stems, and roots contain baicalin, baicalein, and wogonin. Baicalin is best used for its anti-inflammatory properties and as a topical analgesic. Blue Skullcap also has chrysin glucuronide which aids in body building to inhibit conversions of angrogens to estrogens. Skullcap is a known tonic, sedative, abortifacient, anti-inflammatory, astringent, emmenogogue, febrifuge, and nervine. It has been suitable for treating epilepsy, insomnia, hysteria, anxiety, delerium tremens, withdrawal from barbiturates and tranquilisers. It can be used to promote menstruation, miscarriage, as well as to treat throat infections. Once believed to be a remedy for rabies hence the name “Mad Dog Weed”. The Cherokee and other tribes use it as a strong emmenagogue and for female medicine. It is a nervous sedative and good for combatting nervous fear. It also addresses cardiac irritability, nervous irritation, and the spasms of children especially during dentition. Has been used for headaches, tremors, chorea, muscle twitching, nausea, sour eructations, pain, disress, seminal emissions, impotency, sharp stinging pain in the upper extremities, night terrors, sleeplessness, sudden wakefulness, frightful dreams, and insomnia. Overdose can cause giddiness, stupor, confusion, and twitching. It has been linked to liver damage.

Magical Uses:
It is often used as a ceremonial plant by various Native American tribes to introduce young girls into womanhood. It is also used to produce visions.

Folklore and History:

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Henbane




Henbane
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Henbane

Hyoscyamus niger [ Plantae: Angiosperms: Eudicots: Asterids: Solanales: Solanaceae: Hyoscyamus: Hyoscyamus niger ]

Common Names:
stinking nightshade, black henbane, Common Henbane, Hyoscyamus, Hog’s-bean, Devil’s Eye, Jupiter’s-bean, Symphonica, Cassilata, Cassilago, Deus Caballinus.

Localities:
Originates in Eurasia and very common throughout central and southern Europe, Western Asia, India, and Siberia, but now is found throughout the world.

Description:
An annual plant with a almost unbranched stem that is smaller and less downy than the biennial form, leaves shorter and less hairy with yellow flowers in July or August, and its biennial member in May and June. It can grow to a height of 1-2 feet, flowering, and perfecing seeds. Underground has a thick fleshy room with crowns that arise in spring as atall branched flowering stem. The biennial plant spreads out flat on all sides from the crown and root like a rosette, oblong, and egg-shaped, with acute points, stalked and more or less sharply toothed, a foot in length with greyish-green color and covered with sticky hairs. Leaves will perish with winter. Flowering stems push up from root-crown in spring, reaching 3-4 feet in height, becoming branched and furnished with alternate, oblong, unequally lobed stalkless leaves. Most of the leaves are stem clasping and varying in size, but not often more than 9-10 inches in length.

Species:
There are 11 species. Henbane is a member of Solanaceae family, which is in lineage with Potatoes, Tobacco, Belladonna, and Tomatoes.

Cultivation:
Cultivated varieties produce more medical matter than the wild. Grows on most soils, especially sandy beaches near the sea, chalky slopes, or loamy soil. Seeds can lie dormant for a season or more and sometimes dies in patches. Requires light, moderately rich and well drained soils. Seeds should be sown in early May or when ground warms, thinly, in rows 2-2.5 feet apart, with seedlings thinned out 2′ apart. Leaves should be collected when plant is in full flower. When drying, it loses 80-86 percent of its weight, 100 lbs yielding 14-20 lbs. of dry herb. Seeds should be gathered in August, kiln-dried for medicinal purposes, though sun-dried for certain treatments.

Common Uses:

Culinary Uses:
Henbane was often added to ‘gruit’ which is traditionally used as a flavoring for beer until it was replaced by hops in the 11-16th centuries.

Medicinal Uses:
The fresh leaves, flowering tops and branches, and seeds are the most commonly used parts of Henbane. The leaves, seeds, and juice was taken internally to create unquiet sleep, mimicking a sleep of drunkenness that continued long and death-like. It is an antispasmodic, hypnotic, and mild diuretic. It was omitted from the London Pharmacopoeia from 1746 and 1788, then restored in 1809, due to experiments by Baron Storch, who prescribed it fo epilepsy and other nervous convulsive diseases. Henbane is toxic to animals even in low doses, often leading to death; but does not affect the Cabbage Moth which eats henbane. Hyoscyamine, scopolamine, and other tropane alkaloids are found in the seeds and foliage. Effects from ingestion of henbane causes hallucinations, dilated pupils, flushed skin, restlessness, and sometimes convulsions, vomiting, hypertension, tachycardia, hyperpyrexia, and ataxia. Use of Henbane in medicine goes back to ancient times, as was recommended by Dioscorides (1st c. C.E.) who used it to procure sleep and allay pain. Culpepper claimed that its leaves will cool hot inflammations in the eyes and that it assuages pains of gout, sciatica, pains in the joints that arise from a hot cause. It can be used as a anodyne, hypnotic, or a seditive. Can be used to treat Twilight Sleep and used for acute mania and delirium tremens. Seeds are used as a domestic remedy for toothache. Smoke from the seeds on a hot plate can be applied to the mouth with a funnel or a poultice as a means of application for toothaches. Smoking leaves and seeds in a pipe can be used to treat neuralgia and rheumatism.

Magical Uses:
Throughout the history of magic, Henbane was combined with mandrake, deadly nightshade, and datura to create magical brews that were psychoactive anaesthetic potions used in flying ointments that created visual hallucinations and the feeling of flying. It was often applied via a broomstick by witches into the genitals giving effect of the lore of a witch flying on a broomstick. Commonly used in magic for its power of throwing its victims into convulsions. Anodyne necklaces made fro mthe root were hung on children’s necks as charms to prevent fits and for easy teething. The plant is believed to have been added as death offerings in burial to connect the deceased with easing the spirit out of the body to ease its passage into the otherworld. It was a common herb to produce prophecy and the priestessed of the Delphi Oracle were believed to inhale smoke from smouldering henbane in order to retrieve oracles and omens. It is also commonly used in necromancy.

Folklore and History:
Culturally it was used throughout continental Europe, Asia, and the Arabic world onwards through England during the Middles Ages. According to Pliny, The Ancient Greeks utilized Henbane as well. The Priestesses of Apollo used the plant to produce oracles. The name of Henbane goes back to 1265 with the belief that “hen” meant “death”. In 1910, Hawley Harvey Crippen, an American homeopath in London, extracted scopolamine from henbane in order to poison his wife. Henbane is believed to have been the “hebenon” that was poured into the ear of Hamlet’s father. The dead in Hades were crowned with Henbane as they wandered aimlessly beside the river Styx. To the Germans, it is believed that Henbane can attract rain and can produce sterility in land and livestock. Often used by witches to raise storms and blight crops.


Henbane
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland


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Vincetoxicum



Vincetoxicum officinalis
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Vincetoxicum

Vincetoxicum offinalis [ Plantae: Angiosperms: Eudicots: Asterids: Gentianales: Apocynaceae: Asclepiadoideae: Vincetoxicum: Vincetoxicum offinalis ]

Common Names:

Localities:
North America; Texas to Delaware.

Description:
Is a twining perennial vine that has downy stems and milky sap. Its leaves are opposite with ability to reach 10 cm in length, and each being cordate and entire. Wheel or bell-shaped Flowers have 5 regular parts and are up to 2 cm wide being dark purple though sometimes yellow. They blook in late spring and continue into late summer. It grows in rich woods and thickets.

Cultivation:
Habitat is rich woods and thickets. Easily grown.

Common Uses:

Culinary Uses:

Medicinal Uses:
Believed to be an antidote to poisons.

Magical Uses:

Folklore and History:
Name means “to conquer poison” as believed to have virtue as an antidote.


Vincetoxicum nigrum

Vincetoxicum nigrum or Cynanchum nigrum [ Plantae: Angiosperms: Eudicots: Asterids: Gentianales: Apocynaceae: Asclepiadoideae: Cynanchum: Vincetoxicum nigrum or Cynanchum nigrum

]

Common Names:
Louise’s swallow-wort, black swallow-wort

Localities:
Europe, Italy, France, Portugal, and Spain; Invasive in Northeastern United States, parts of the Midwest, southeastern Canada, and California.

Description:
Of the milkweed family it is a perrenial herbaceous vine species native to Europe, but invasive to North America, that has oval shaped leaves with pointed tips. Leaves grow on average to 3-4 inches long and 2-3 inches wide, often in pairs on the stem. Flowers have five star shaped petals with white hairs ranging in color from black to dark purple. Its fruit appears in slender tapered pods ranging in color from brown to green.

Cultivation:
It variably grows in upland areas, tolerant to variable light, salt, and moisture levels. Often found in abandoned fields, brush areas, woodlands, river banks, roadways, hedgerows, quarries, and gardens as a weed. It sprouts in spring and flowers from June to July. It is self-pollinating, with seed pods forming throughout summer.

Common Uses:

Culinary Uses:

Medicinal Uses:

Magical Uses:

Folklore and History:

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American Mandrake



American Mandrake
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

American Mandrake

Podophyllum peltatum [ Plantae: Angiosperms: Eudicots: Core eudicots: Caryophyllales: Amaranthaceae: Amaranthus: Podophyllum peltatum ]

Common Names:
Mayapple, Devil’s Apple, Hog-apple, Indian Apple, American Mandrake, American May Apple, Racoonberry, Wild Lemon, Witches Umbrella

Localities:
Eastern North America – Southern Maine to Florida, west to Texas and Minnesota.

Description:
American Mandrake, while confused for European Mandrake because of its humanoid root form, is a barberry rather than a nightshade so doesn’t contain tropanes. Some describe it as looking like a small umbrella rising out of the floor of the forest. There could be upwards of thousands of stems in the colonies resembling mini forests since they branch out from the same root system are genetically identical as from a single plant. But it is still beneficial yet deadly. Easy to identify because of its single stem and umbrella-like leaf arrangements. It grows wild in damp North American woodlands. Its a perrenial native that grows in moist soils in rich woods, thickets, and pastures. American Mandrake grows upwards of 18 inches high with the stem separating into 2 large dark green long stemmed palmate lobed leaves that look like umbrellas that are protecting the large white flower that is on a short peduncle that grows right in between the leaves flowering from April to May. Spring flowers of the American Mandrake turn into crab apple sized edible fruits that are gathered in late summer when fully ripe. May Apple colonies do not flower until it is 12 years old, then display blossoms resembling small satellite dishes followed by the fruit. The colonies grow very slowly averaging 4 inches a year. Mandrake roots are in humanoid shape, dark brown, fibrous, and jointed.

Cultivation:
American Mandrake is fairly easy to grow using seedling transplans or seeds sown in the fall and prefers rich well drained soil and partial shade. Roots are usually gathered after the foliage dies back and then dried for later use.

Common Uses:

Culinary Uses:
Its ripe fruit is edible, but the rest of the plant (especially the root) contains a powerful cytotoxin (cell killer). Fruit is eaten when fully ripe either raw, cooked, or made into jams, jellies, marmalades, and pies. May apple is very aromatic and has a sweet flavor. The seeds and rinds are poisonous and not edible.

Medicinal Uses:
This plant is currently used in chemotherapy against cancer. Most of the plant contains a powerful cytotoxin (cell killer), especially he root. Root and plant contain Quercetic, Kaempferol, Podophyllin, Isorhamnetin, Gallic acid, Berberine, and Alpha-peltatin; all of which are utilized in healing and anticancer remedies. It is also used for skin cancer treatment. The root is the most medicinal part of the plant as it is antibilious, cathartic, cytostatic, hydrogogue and purgative. Resin from the root is used in the treatment of warts. The herb produces nausea and vomiting, inflammation of the stomach and intestines, and can be fatal. Even in moderate doses it is a drastic purgative with cholagogue action. Native Americans used the plant for a powerful laxative, treating intestinal worms, as a cure for warts, snakebite, and insecticide for their crops. It was also used commonly to committ suicide. Pioneers made an extract from the roots as a cathartic and cure for constipation. Reports from pharmaceutical workers describe severe skin sores and eye inflammations just from handling the poisonous root. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration deems the plant as “unsafe”.

Magical Uses:
An extremely magical plant, Mandrake (American or European) is utilized in much spellcraft because its root takes on a humanoid form and good to use in sympathetic and contact magic. It is ruled by Saturn.

Folklore and History:
The plant is extensively used by Native Americans. American witches have and still use the plant as a poison, cure, and medicine. Just as its European counterpart, its often nicknamed Manroot (mandrake) for its shape, and believed to be alive screaming when pulled from the ground would render a man permanently insane.

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Love Lies Bleeding



Love Lies Bleeding
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Love Lies Bleeding

Amaranthus caudatus [ Plantae: Angiosperms: Eudicots: Core eudicots: Caryophyllales: Amaranthaceae: Amaranthus: A. caudatus ]

Common Names:

Amaranth, Amaranthus, Love Lies Bleeding, love-lies-bleeding, love-lies-a’bleeding, pendant amaranth, tassel flower, velvet flower, foxtail amaranth, and quelite.

Localities:
Grows throughout the world, especially North and South America, Asia, India, Africa, the Pacific Islands, the Caribbean, and Eurasia.

Description:
“Love Lies Bleeding” is an annual that can grow upwards of 36 to 48 inches or 3-8 feet high. Amaranthus when in bloom produces a pale pink, fuchsia, red, or purple flower color in mid to late summer and/or early fall. Amaranthus is herbaceous and is a species of annual flowering plant. Its red color is due to a high content of betacyanins making it a popular ornamental.

Cultivation:
When planting Amaranthus, one should space the plants between 18 and 24 inches apart. They need full sun. It can handle both humid and arid conditions. They need average watering regularly, but should not be overwatered. Soil should have a 5.6 to 6.0 acidic soil pH or a 6.1 to 6.5 mildly acidic pH. Amaranthus can be propograted from seed either indoors before the last frost or outside after the last frost. When collecting the seedheads, allow to dry on the plants, removing and collecting seeds.

Common Uses:

Culinary Uses:
Most of the plant, such as the leaves and seeds, are edible and often used as food in India and South America as well as Asia, India, Africa, the Pacific Islands, the Caribbean, and Eurasia. It was the principle grain crop of he Aztecs who called it the “golden grain of the gods”. With the Kiwicha variety, when the grain seeds are heated, they pop to create a crunchy white product that tastes like nutty popcorn often utilized as a delicious snack or as a cold cereal with milk and honey, as breading on chicken or fish, or in sweets with honey. The grain is also made into a flour and rolled into flakes, puffed, or boiled for porridge.

Medicinal Uses:

Magical Uses:

Folklore and History:
Known as the “Golden Grain of the Gods” by the Aztec. It was widely dispersed as much as corn was in the Americas.

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The Yew Tree


Yew Tree
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

European Yew
Taxus baccata [ Plantae: Pinophyta: Pinopsida: Pinales: Taxaceae: Taxus: T. baccata ]

Common Names:
Yew,

Localities:
The European Yew is a conifer that is native to Western, Central, and Southern Europe as well as Northwest Africa, Northern Iran, and Southwest Asia.

Description:
The Common Yew was amongst the first species to be described by Linnaeus belonging to family Taxaceae. The tree is a small to medium sized evergreen tree that grows approximately 10-20 meters tall (33-66 feet), though has been known to reach 92 feet (28 m) The trunk can become up to 2 meters thick (6 ft) though has been found in odd cases upwards of 13 feet thick in diameter. The Yew tree’s bark is thin, scaly brown and comes off in small flakes that is aligned with the stem. Its leaves are lanceolate, flat, and dark green upwards of 1-4 centimeters long and 2-3 millimters broad that are arranged spirally on a stem with the leaf bases twisted to align the leaves in two flat rows on either side of the stem, except on erect leading shoots when the spiral arrangement is more obvious. The seed cones are highly modified with each one containing a single seed that are 4-7 millimeters long and partly surrounded by a modified scale that can develop into a soft bright red berry-like composition called an aril, approximately 8-15 millimeters long and wide, open at the end. These mature 6-9 months after pollination. The seeds are often eaten by a variety of birds such as waxwings and thrushes who disperse the hard seeds undamaged in their droppings. The arils mature over 2-3 months adding to the successful seed dispersal. The seeds are extremely poisonous and biter, but opened and eaten by some bird species such as the great tits and the hawfinches. Male cones are globose and size 3-6 millimters in diameter, shedding their pollen in early spring. They are mostly dioecious but can be variably monoecious and change sex with time. Yews are slow growing and can be long-living, with some trunks having exceeded 2,000 years old (such as The Fortingall Yew in Perthshire, Scotland). Age is difficult to determine with the Yew wood because rarely any wood on the tree is as old as the entire tree since the boughs hollow out with age, making ring counts impossible. There are some Yew trees believed to be 5,000-9,500 years old based on archaeological evidence of surrounding structures incorporated with the trees. has been estimated at 2,000 years old. It is the longest living tree in all of Europe.

Cultivation:
The yew can be propagated through cuttings, seed, graftings or layering. Yews prefer a moist, fertile, sandy loam soil, but can grow well in most soils, especially chalk, but not in water-logged ground or sticky wet clay. The yew can flourish in the shade of taller trees, but little will grow in their own shadows.

Common Uses:
The Yew, especially the Irish Yew, is commonly used in landscaping and ornamental horticulture, and are used especially for formal hedges and topiary.
A 450,000 year old wooden spearhead, made out of yew, is one of the world’s oldest wooden artifacts found at Clacton-on-sea,in Essex, UK. It is the choice of woods used for constructing longbows. Yew has also been utilized for making spears, spikes, staves, and small hunting bows. Arrows tipped in a poison made from Yew leaves was commonplace in the Middle Ages. European historical construction of bows from the Yew tree caused severe damage to the livlihood of the species and throughout history saw numerous bans of its harvest. Yew wood was also used to create wheels and cogs, spoons, handles, bowls and any turned items, also found in the body of the lute, and within sacred carvings.

Culinary Uses:
The seeds and leaves are highly poisonous. The only part of the tree that is not poisonous is the aril and the wood. The aril is gelatinous and very sweet tasting.

Medicinal Uses:
The seeds and leaves are highly poisonous. The major toxin is the alkaloid taxane remaining toxic even when the foliage is wilted or dried. Horses have the lowest tolerance to Yew leaves, with a lethal dose of 200-400 mg/kg body weight while other livestock are less vulnerable. Symptoms of Yew poisoning is muscle tremors, convulsions, coldness, difficulty breathing, staggering gait, collapse, and eventual heart failure. Death is rapid. Fatal poisoning in humans are rare except if ingesting alot of yew foliage (estimated between 50-100 grams). It has been used for phyotherapy as published in the Canon of Medicine in 1021. It was used for cardiac remedy in a drug named “Zarnab” as a calcium channel blocker drug not in wide use in the Western world until the 1960’s. This was an early precursor to the chemotherapy drug called Paclitaxel that were made from the leaves of the European Yew. In the Himalayas it is used to treat breast and ovary cancer. Conflicts in 1990 against the harvesting of paclitaxel for cancer treatment from the Pacific Yew has stunted use. Some lore claims it was used to stimulate abortion.

Magical Uses:
It was traditional to take a yew branch on All Saint’s Day to the tombs of those who died recently so that they would find the guide to return from the Land of Shadows. Traditionally yews are planted in graveyards, near chapels, churches, and cemeteries as a symbol of transcendance of death. They are also found in the main squares of villages to bring all together. Often planted as a symbol for long life or as trees of death. Yew wood commonly used to make magical wands and/or staves. The yew represents immortality, renewal, regeneration, everlasting life, rebirth, transformation and access to the Otherworld and the ancestors. Many churchyards once stood in a circle of Yew, based on the churches being built over ancient Druid sacred groves. It is one of the most potent trees for protecting against evil and to bring dreams and otherworldly journeys. The Yew often represents old magic. In hot weather, it gives off a resinous vapor that shamans inhale to gain visions. The Yew is the last of the 20 trees in the Tree Ogham used for divination, prophecy, and a mnenomic device for learning. In Ogham, it is the “Idho” as a link to spiritual guidance through ancestors and guardians of the Otherworlds. It also represents death and resurrection or renewal in the Ogham. Yew used in divining rods can be used to find lost property.

Folklore and History:
The name “Yew” comes from the Proto-Germanic “*?wa-” and with possible origination from the Gaulish “ivos”. Word refers to the color “brown”. “Baccata” is latin for “Bearing red berries”. To the Celts, the Yew Tree has extroadinary supernatural power and importance. It was believed to be linked with the land, the people, the ancestors, and to the ancient religion. The tree is sacred to the Goddess Hecate and the Crone aspects of the Triple Goddess. The Yew was often seen as guardians of the Underworld, death, and the afterlife. It was a common ancient poison. Tribal leaders were often buried beneath the Yew as believed its dryad or tree spirit would join with them.


Yew Tree

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Papaya


Papaya, Big Island, Hawaii

Papaya
Taxonomy: Plantae: Angiosperms: Eudicots: Rosids: Brassicales: Caricaceae: Carica: Carica papaya. Common names: Custard Apple, Papaya, paw paw, big melon, melon tree

Carica papaya is the Caribbean/Spanish name of the plant that bears the fruit “Papaya”. The plant is “tree-like” with a single stem that grows to about 5-10 meters tall, with spirally arranged leaves that are confined to the top of the trunk. The lower part of the trunk is scarred where leaves/fruit once were. Leaves grow to approximately 50-70 cm. diamater with deeply palmately lobed with 7 lobes. Flowers are small, wax-like with axils on the leaves maturing to approx. 15-45 cm long, 10-30 cm diamter fruit. Female flowers have five yellow twisted petals that grow singly or in sparse corymbs. The fruit is ripe when its soft, similar to the avacado, and skin attains amber-orange hue. It is a large, oblong or nearly spherical, fleshy berry with a orange or yellow rind like a gourd. Can be from 3-20 inches long and weigh up to 12 lbs or more. Fruit tastes similar to pineapple and peach, milder without tartness. The plant is found throughout the tropical Americas.

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Pineapple


Pineapple plant, Big Island, Hawaii

Pineapple Plant
Taxonomy: Plantae: Angiosperms: Monocots: Commelinids: Poales: Bromeliaceae: Bromelioideae: Ananas comosus. Common names: Pineapple, Pine Apple,

Pineapple is a common tropical fruit that is often used in tropical drinks, appetizers, desserts, and cooking. It was first named “pineapple” in 1398 to describe the reproductive organs of conifer trees and once European explorers encountered it, they called them “pineapples” based on their resemblance to the pine cone. The use of this reference was first done in 1694. The Pineapple plant grows 1-1.5 meters tall with 30+ trough-shaped/pointed leaves that are usually 30-100 cm long, surrounding a thick stem. It is considered a multiple fruit in that it has multiple, helically-arranged flowers along its axis that produce a fleshy fruit that becomes pressed against the fruits of adjacent flowers, forming what appears to be a single fleshy fruit. These are formed in two interlocking helices, 13 in one direction, and 8 in the other. Its an edible tropical plant native to Paraguay and Brazil. The fruit is most often served fresh, sliced, canned, or as a juice. High in acid content, it bears a sweet and sour taste. It is one of the most commercially important plants that carry out CAM photosynthesis.

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Veronik Gendarme


Véronik Gendarme

Gallery at Trolls et Legendes Festival in Mons, Belgium: 4/11/09 – 4/12/09

An amazing painter whose inspiration comes from plants and minerals, Véronik Gendarme has been painting since 1991. A self-taught Belgian artist from Saint-Vincent (Gaume). Her art has seen many exhibitions in France and Belgium, leading her to winning numerous awards such as the “festival d’art de Neufchâteau”, Thionville, Talange, and Hagondange. She paints many landscapes, creatures, and images from the world of fantasy with nature. Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5.

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United States Botanical Gardens (D.C.)


United States Botanical Gardens, Washington, D.C. 2/17/09

United States Botanical Gardens: (A HREF=”http://www.usbg.gov/”>http://www.usbg.gov/)
is one of the Nation’s most important botanical gardens. It is located on the grounds of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., near Garfield Circle, at the east end of the National Mall. The facility is supervised by the Congress through the Architect of the Capitol who is the groundskeeper of the Capitol. Open daily even on federal holidays (except June 3) until 5 pm. It is the oldest and most continually-operating botanical gardens in the U.S. In 1838 Charles Wilkes set out on the United States Exploring Expedition commissioned by Congress to circumnavigate the globe and explore the Pacific Ocean. During this trip (the “Wilkes Expedition”), Wilkes collected live and dried specimens of plants and was one of the first to use wardian cases to maintain live plants on long voyages. Wilkes returned in 1842 with a massive collection of plants previously unknown in the United States. These dried specimens comprised the core of what is now the National Herbarium, a herbarium curated by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. The live specimens and seeds came to be housed in the Old Patent Office greenhouse, and were cared for there until 1850. At that time, a botanic garden was built to house the collection in front of the Capitol, where the Capitol reflecting pool is now located. The Building was moved to its present location in 1933 just to the southwest of the Capitol, bordered by Maryland Avenue on the north, First Street on the east, Independence Avenue on the south, and Third Street on the west. The Gardens are separated into the following sections;

  • The Garden Court
  • Rare and Endangered Plants (rare species, endangered species)
  • Plant Exploration
  • Orchid House (orchids)
  • Medicinal Plants (medicinal plants)
  • Desert (desert species)
  • Oasis (oasis)
  • Garden Primeval (primeval)
  • Plant Adaptation
  • Jungle (jungle species; this is the largest of the rooms, and includes a second-story catwalk so that the jungle canopy may be observed from both below and above)
  • Children’s Garden (courtyard; features many thriving temperate annuals used to encourage interest in plants)
  • Southern Exposure (courtyard),on the south side of the building, is surrounded by glass walls, receiving more warmth. It features many plants from the Southeast and Southwest, which would not be able to live in the colder District of Columbia climate if not for the microclimate)

The Oasis and administrative offices are the only places in the complex with air conditioning. Each room is closely monitored by a computer-operated sensors to maintain the environment best suited to the plants in that room. Humidity, sunlight and temperature are regulated by means of a misting system, retractable shades and levered windows. All plants are watered daily by hand. The gardens are fragrant, beautiful, and not to be missed when visiting Washington, D.C. Rating: 5+ stars out of 5.
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