One of my author Edith Maxwell’s favorite reference books is Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart.
In it you can find descriptions of common toxic plants from azalea – “Eating any part of the plant can cause heart problems, vomiting, dizziness, and extreme weakness” – to yew: “Eating just a few seeds or a handful of leaves will bring on gastrointestinal symptoms, a dangerous drop in pulse rate, and possible heart failure.” In Edith’s short story “Reduction in Force” a poisonous tea from the garden dispatches the victim. In her story “The Stonecutter” (in Fish Nets, Wildside Press 2013) other poisonous garden plants are slipped into a kale stew.
Another good resource is Book of Poisons: A Guide for Writers by Serita Stevens and Anne Bannon. It includes poisonous plants and fragile fungi, but also lists medical and
industrial poisons and poisons by toxicity. Watch out for the common deadly nightshade, hemlock, jimson weed, lily of the valley, monkshood, oleander, black-eyed susan, rhubarb leaves, and of course, the strychnine tree.
Readers: Have you come across deadly plants in your garden? Or used them in your writing?
Edith Maxwell writes the Local Foods mystery series from Kensington Publishing, in which geek-turned-organic farmer Cam Flaherty grows produce even in the winter for members of the Locavore club, but also has to solve more than one case of locally sourced murder.