Species Of The Week Number 46: Hemlock Water Dropwort

It may look like a peaceful idyll but watch-out, Meanwood is a dangerous place to live - there are at least three local species that can do you very serious harm.

  1. Hemlock Water Dropwort is a nasty piece of work. If you are seeking nausea, vomiting, bloody urine, confusion, convulsions, and ultimately unconsciousness and death then HWD is the plant for you. All parts of it are very toxic.

People accidentally eat it as the leaves look like Parsley and the roots look and smell like Parsnip. Luckily cases of poisoning are rare with only 13 reported in Britain between 1900 and 1978, mostly involving children. However, 70% of them were fatal.

About 20 years ago a group of 8 people in Scotland made the "I'm-sure-its-Parsnip" mistake and made it into a curry with pretty terrible consequences, you can read about that incident online (via the Emergency Medical Journal). In ancient Italy it was apparently used to kill off old people who had become a burden to society.

On the upside...people who die from it apparently do so with a smile on their faces. It has a restricting effect on facial muscles during those final deathly convulsions. You can find this smiling killer growing down on Meanwood Beck.

  1. Giant Hogweed which is also very poisonous but despite my very best attempts I am not 100% certain of my ability to confidently distinguish it from Common Hogweed so be careful of both!
  2. The third in our unholy trinity of Meanwood killers is the blood-sucking Castor Bean Tick, carrier of the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease. Lyme disease is classically identified by a developing circular 'bulls-eye' rash - and complications from it can be fatal. Is it the most dangerous insect in Meanwood? Certainly not because it is not an insect at all - count its legs. Your arachnophobia may be justified.

In better news most of the other 827 species we have so far identified as part of the Meanwood Road Bioblitz are kind and gentle!

Publicado el 07 de agosto de 2023 por clunym clunym


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