lblanchard: (swannfountain)
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[This is one in what has now become an almost-weekly series of postings inspired by Abigail Rorer, Mimpish Squinnies: Reginald Farrer's Short Guide to Worthless Plants. Rorer's book includes prints of fourteen plants Farrer considered worthless-- an interesting hybrid of botanically accurate and...different. You can see her work, including all fourteen mimpish squinnies, here: http://www.theloneoakpress.com/prints/newer.html ]

I'm nearing the end of the canonical mimpish squinnies; this is the antepenultimate Rorer image. Unlike some of the others, Aconitum napellus is a very dangerous plant that richly deserves Farrer's ire and Rorer's unsettling treatment of it.



Though Aconitum need not necessariIy have any place in the rock-garden, on however large a scale it may be built, and though the race is sinister and evil in its poisonous sombre splendour almost beyond any other that we have, yet, for the guidance of those who find nothing but nude names in lists, I may briefly go through the best species that may be used to adorn remoter corners of the large rock-garden, in any soil that is deep and rich and cool, whether in sun or shade, though shade best fits the gloomy tone of their magnificence.

Napellus, our own dismal Monkshood, now wild, or at all events now widely established along the stream sides of the West, and so persistent in its malign attendance upon man that it even climbs high into the Alps, and there forms dense jungles round the highest chalets, in the hope that some day somebody may eat of its poisoned root and die. Napellus has innumerable forms, not necessarily to be named, unless it be to single out the varieties carneum and roseum for special warning, these alluring epithets covering, in reality, colours of a dim and unwholesome dinginess. The blue and white bicolor form is good, however, and so is the dark-blue form called Spark's variety. Eminens is a much taller development.- All forms bloom in high summer, through July and August. --The English Rock-Garden


Aconitum napellus is a handsome plant:


By Bernd Haynold - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=237028


But beware! It's a killer. From Wikipedia:

Like other species in the genus, A. napellus contains several poisonous compounds, including enough cardiac poison that it was used on spears and arrows for hunting and battle in ancient times. A. napellus has a long history of use as a poison, with cases going back thousands of years. During the ancient Roman period of European history, the plant was often used to eliminate criminals and enemies, and by the end of the period it was banned and anyone growing A. napellus could have been legally sentenced to death. Aconites have been used more recently in murder plots; they contain the chemical alkaloids aconitine, mesaconitine, hypaconitine and jesaconitine, which are highly toxic.

Marked symptoms may appear almost immediately, usually not later than one hour, and "with large doses death is almost instantaneous." Death usually occurs within two to six hours in fatal poisoning (20 to 40 mL of tincture may prove fatal). The initial signs are gastrointestinal including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. This is followed by a sensation of burning, tingling, and numbness in the mouth and face, and of burning in the abdomen. In severe poisonings pronounced motor weakness occurs and cutaneous sensations of tingling and numbness spread to the limbs. Cardiovascular features include hypotension, sinus bradycardia, and ventricular arrhythmias. Other features may include sweating, dizziness, difficulty in breathing, headache, and confusion. The main causes of death are ventricular arrhythmias and asystole, paralysis of the heart or of the respiratory center. The only post-mortem signs are those of asphyxia.

Poisoning may also occur following picking the leaves without wearing gloves; the aconitine toxin is absorbed easily through the skin. In this event, there will be no gastrointestinal effects. Tingling will start at the point of absorption and extend up the arm to the shoulder, after which the heart will start to be affected. The tingling will be followed by unpleasant numbness. Treatment is similar to poisoning caused by oral ingestion and even handling the plant without gloves has been reported to result in multi-organ failure and death.


Farrer lists many others among the Aconitum, and is quite complimentary to several. I understand,though, that all the Aconites are toxic to one degree or another.

Date: 2016-11-21 03:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pondhopper.livejournal.com
His "characterization" (personification!) of the plant laying in wait for someone to nibble on it and die is perfect. And Rorer created the perfect fangy-toothy image for it.

That is one deadly (though oddly attractive) plant!

Date: 2016-11-21 06:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lblanchard.livejournal.com
Yes - I love the fact that he assigns a malevolent agency to the plant.

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