Monday, December 05, 2011

Monkshood (Don’t Touch This)

Monkshood (Aconitum napellus).jpg
Aconitum napellus

We finally did it — we found a rare plant. And wouldn't you know it, it's deadly poisonous. I'm glad we didn't pick it for identification later. We frequently do that but we were on our way to photographing Common Wood Nymph butterflies on Telfer Hill Road when we found it. We pulled by the side of the road just to give me time for quick shots for an ID and we pulled out.

Aconitum Napellus commonly named 'Monkshood' is one of the most toxic plants known to man. In Europe the poison, that was collected from this plant was used to kill Wolves and mad dogs hence its other name Wolfsbane or Dogsbane. Monkshood is a genus of over 250 species of Aconitum that belong to the Buttercup - Ranunculaceæ family of plants.

All parts of the Monkshood plant are poisonous and it must be handled with care. You should wear gloves and wash your hands after touching it as even a mild dose of its poison can cause a serious allergic reaction that can render the 'victim' in need of medical treatment.

You don't have to take in the poison by mouth, it can be absorbed through the skin. Be it the stem, the sap, the petals or the roots, this plant is a killer if not given all due care and respect. Many people through the ages have been killed either accidentally or even on purpose by this plant...the assassins (sic) plant of choice !

Source: Killer Plant: Monkshood

So be careful out there next summer! Monkshood sort of looks like vetch (it did to me), but close up I knew it wasn’t. The leaves are lobed (vetch isn’t) and the color, height and stems are different.


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