Katrina Gulliver

Not everything in the garden is lovely

For as long as we have been human, powerful chemicals in plants have provided us with stimulants, analgesics – and the means of murder

Common toxic plants (left to right): Deadly Nightshade (Atropa Belladonna), Fly Agaric (Amanita Muscarius), Strong-scented Lettuce (Lactuca Virosa). From The Household Physician, 1890. [Getty Images]

While I was reading Most Delicious Poison, I visited a herbal garden in Spain which features the plants grown by the Nasrid rulers of Granada hundreds of years ago. They cultivated myrtle for its medicinal uses and jasmine for its fragrance. How did they know of myrtle’s properties? Some ancient ancestor must have figured it out.

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