Sunday, May 28, 2006

Beautiful but deadly

In a lane a mile or so from our house a plant of monk's-hood, Aconitum napellus, has been growing for at least 20 years. Clearly a survivor from the garden of a long demolished cottage, it battles its slender blue spikes of flower through the nettles and brambles in the overgrown hedge every year.

This species is not indigenous to Sussex and is rare even as a garden escape.

Monk's-hood is probably the most poisonous of all British vascular plants. Its juice was rubbed on externally as a pain killer and it had a wide range of other medicinal applications. Inevitably there are all sorts of folk tales surrounding a plant with as sinister a reputation as this.

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