Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Beware of Poison in Your Patch; Just a Brush from Some Garden Plants Can Burn Skin, and There Are Many More You Must Never Eat

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Beware of Poison in Your Patch; Just a Brush from Some Garden Plants Can Burn Skin, and There Are Many More You Must Never Eat

Article excerpt

Byline: GARDENING With Diarmuid Gavin

IWAS wandering through Salford, Greater Manchester, across the canal from the Lowry Hotel, one evening last week.

In the dim light I could make out the luminous white heads of flowering Giant Hogweed.

It is a plant I have always loved - a dramatic, visual delight.

It's an inviting plant because it's so spectacular, growing up to 16ft tall - standing next to it would dwarf a man.

However, it's a plant I know never to encourage and never to specify in a planting scheme. And if I saw young species, especially thriving beside water, I always recommend it is eradicated on sight.

Why? Well, Heracleum mantegazzianum, to give it its proper name, is dangerous to humans.

Even brushing against it can cause blistering rashes, due to its toxic sap, and even blindness. It's been all over the news recently after five children suffered dreadful burns just by touching it, and another will be scarred for life.

It's made me think that we should be aware of other plants that can do us harm.

Some, such as the common foxglove, may seem innocuous while others, like Atropa belladonna (deadly nightshade), always come with Deadly nightshade a skull and crossbone warning.

And while the juice of some plants can be soothing, such as aloe, last year it was reported that a gardener died after just brushing against aconitum (monkshood).

So what plants do you need to be careful around? If you have children, you need to be aware of plants with bright berries that look tempting but can be very toxic. These include cuckoo pint (Arum italicum) which have bright orange poisonous berries, as well as the fruit of cherry laurel, privet and rhamnus.

People often fret about laburnum trees, and while it's true the seed pods are toxic, as they are black and hard they're not that attractive to children. …

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