This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.
because a plant looks nice does not mean you should eat it. Farmers learn this
lesson tragically sometimes when their animals feed on wild plants. In fact, some
of the nicest looking plants in the world are best enjoyed from a distance.
good example is belladonna. A "bella donna" -- like in the Stevie
Nicks song -- is a beautiful woman in Italian. The plant is also beautiful. It has
flowers like stars and shiny berries that start out green and turn purple to
black. But every part of it is poisonous. Other names for belladonna include
devil's herb and deadly nightshade.
just because something is dangerous does not always mean it is all bad. Belladonna
and other poison plants have a long history of medical use.
common or purple foxglove produces pretty flowers along a tall leafy stem
called a spike. Foxglove can cause heart
failure. Yet the plant is part of a group called Digitalis that is used in
medicine to treat heart problems.
Plants with names like coast fiddleneck, common
cocklebur, low larkspur and common groundsel all present risks to people or
animals. Recently there was news that a shopper at a market in northern Germany
found small amounts of groundsel in bags of mixed salad. The average person
would probably not have recognized it, but this person knew about poisonous
Many people happily recognize
oleander. The evergreen shrub produces beautiful flowers -- white, red, pink
and other colors. But officials in Southern California say someone recently
poisoned more than twenty show horses by mixing oleander in their feed. Local
newspapers say the horses have recovered.
Stewart is a best selling author of books about the good and bad in nature. She
lives in Northern California and raises a poison garden of her own. Her newest
book is called "Wicked Plants." So which plant does she consider the
deadliest of all?
AMY STEWART: "Tobacco has killed more people than
any other plant I could find. I mean, ninety million people have died because
And that's the VOA Special English
Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson with Faiza Elmasry. Transcripts
and podcasts of our weekly reports are at voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Bob Doughty.