plants

Poison Points: The “Little Apple of Death”, the Manchineel.

manchineel_0002.jpg

Ah, the manchineel. It offers deceptively sweet fruit, but these are known in their native habitat as the manzanilla de la muerta, the “little apples of death”. The fruits have been reported to taste pleasantly sweet, before causing hours of agony(and sometimes death) after one bite…one  feels a strange peppery feeling in the mouth, which gradually progresses to a burning, tearing sensation and tightness of the throat, until breathing and swallowing becomes almost impossible. Consumption of the apples also causes abdominal pain, vomiting, bleeding and digestive tract damage.

This species of tree is endangered, but so is anyone who messes with it, because it is one of the most poisonous trees on earth. The entire manchineel  tree–bark, leaves and the milky sap–is toxic, according to the Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Interaction with and ingestion of any part of this tree may be lethal.The sap scorches the skin; even runoff from the rain can cause burns.

 

The Language of Flowers: Wormwood.

wormwood.jpg

Wormwood is a woody shrub with a bitter aromatic taste, used, especially formerly, as an ingredient of vermouth,absinthe, and in medicine. Possibly the bitterest of all, wormwood is an ancient medicinal and kitchen herb. An Egyptian scroll that is 3,600 years old contains detailed information regarding its use in expelling internal parasites. It was later used to treat almost any complaint imaginable. Apart from diseases, it was also thought to be able to expel bad spirits.
In the Victorian language of flowers, in which a thoughtfully arranged bouquet could reveal an abundance of meaning, wormwood symbolizes bitter sorrow.

And dig this, fans of Harry Potter:

In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,Snape’s first question to Harry in Potions class is, “Potter! What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?”

Asphodel is a lily that is one of the most famous of the plants connected with the dead and the underworld. Homer describes it as covering “the great meadow”,the haunt of the dead. It was planted on graves, and was also supposed to be a remedy for venomous snakebites, and protection against sorcery. (remember that Lily sacrificed herself to ward off the evil of a wizard heavily associated with snakes!)
Wormwoood symbolizes absence and bitter sorrow.

The cryptic meaning?

I bitterly regret Lily’s death”.