Cam’s Garden Tips: Poisonous Plants

Cam Flaherty here. By popular request, we’re talking plants in your garden you definitely Is your garden an interesting mystery (1)do not want to eat. Or, if you’re a mystery writer, the ones you might want to slip into your victim’s tea.

One of my author Edith Maxwell’s favorite reference books is Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother wickedplantssmand 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

Aconite, or monkshood. All parts of the plant are toxic.

Aconite, or monkshood. All parts of the plant are toxic.

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.

About Edith Maxwell

Agatha Award winning author Edith Maxwell writes the historical Quaker Midwife Mysteries (Beyond the Page) and short crime fiction. As Maddie Day she writes the Country Store Mysteries series and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries (both from Kensington Publishing). She lives north of Boston in an antique house with her beau and a high-energy kitten, where she writes, gardens, cooks, and wastes time on Facebook.
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21 Responses to Cam’s Garden Tips: Poisonous Plants

  1. Wow, great resources here — and an inspiration to plan a “poisons plot” in the garden space perhaps. Thanks so much for sharing this, Cam (and Edith!). I haven’t used one of these *yet* in a plot, but poison ivy is likely to come into my next mystery (along with touch-me-not). Glad to know where to look for creative possibilties!

  2. I’ve used The Book of Poisons, but I’ll look for the other references too. I have used plants as murder weapons (sounds odd, doesn’t it?), which seems especially apt in small towns with gardening clubs and competitive gardeners. The research is fun, and often I can just go out to my garden and pull one up to make sure I get the description right. I’m not much of a gardener, so I’m enjoying your posts.

  3. Mary Sutton says:

    “Wicked Plans” is on my Amazon wish list. The short story I’m writing now uses aconite/monkshood.

  4. Thanks for stopping by Guppies and sending me over here. Haven’t used garden poisons yet, but this post gives me inspiration.

  5. hankpryan says:

    I just read a book where there was s flower poison.. ANd I was gong to talk about it ,but then I realized..well, that’s the mystery. WOnder if there could e a florist serial killer. I guess she/he would be pretty easy to catch.. Hmm. So fascinating, Edith!

  6. Interesting post. I’ll be looking for Wicked Plants. I have Deadly Doses, the earlier version of The Guide to Poisons. I’m working on a gastronomic poisoning at the moment, so this is timely for me.

  7. DP Lyle’s Forensics for Dummies has information about poisons, too.

  8. sheilaboneham says:

    Great post and references, Edith! In My first Animals in Focus mystery, DROP DEAD ON RECALL, someone puts some easily found, not-so-friendly plant matter in someone’s grub. As one of my characters points out, our gardens and larger environments are full of beautiful poisons.

  9. Hi Edith ~ Wonderful post and a fascinating subject. I have Wicked Plants and it’s a great book! I love foxglove, but I’ve heard it’s dangerous for cats in the garden. I’ll have to check. Thanks for your post!

  10. I have Book of Poisons: A Guide for Writers, but didn’t know about Wicked Plants. I’m looking forward to checking it out. Thanks for the information, Edith.

  11. LD Masterson says:

    I’m looking for a good murder method right now, something subtle. I’ll have to check out these books. Thanks.

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