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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Friday 8th June 2012

I’m a really poor gardener. And, I hope, I’m also stupid. I’ve written before about my lack of ability when it comes to actual gardening but there is a big difference between having an opinion of oneself and having that opinion confirmed independently.

As I wrote, a month ago, of the eight Ricinus communis, castor oil plant, seeds that germinated, only two produced leaves and looked like being suitable for planting out. That turned out to be the case and, just before the end of May I planted the two survivors out into a newly prepared area of the garden.

The day after, I was relieved to see they hadn’t died off immediately and then it became clear that they were putting on new growth.

I was quite pleased with myself when I saw this and thought it was worth taking a picture to be able to follow the progress.

Ricinus communis, castor oil plant 

But, then I went into our nearest town to find that the local authority’s parks’ department had planted out the raised beds in the market square with a mixture of soon to be colourful annuals and a Ricinus communis in the centre of each bed. Ricinus communis plants that, as this example shows, stand there saying ‘See, you are a useless gardener. This is what your plants should be looking like’.

Ricinus communis, castor oil plant 

But I don’t just want to engage in a bit of public self-flagellation. I want to take the opportunity to explain why I hope I’m stupid.

All round the UK local authorities are doing, or have done, what ours did this week and put castor oil plants into the centre of public flower beds. They are what gardeners call ‘dot’ plants because their height gives a third dimension to a flowerbed accentuating the lower growing geraniums, pansies and begonias that tend to be favoured.

Ricinus communis, remember, is generally described, especially, but not exclusively, by security organisations in the USA as the source of a potent bioterrorism weapon, ricin, that can be easily obtained from the seeds of the plant.

I can’t help thinking that someone is stupid. I don’t think it is the local authorities because they have been using Ricinus communis in public flowerbeds for many years without any untoward incidents so they can’t be called stupid for continuing to use the plant to make our town centres brighter.

So, that leaves the security authorities and me. Actually that should be ‘and us’ but I probably shouldn’t call anyone reading this stupid. Either those who are supposed to know about terrorism actually believe what they say about ricin making them very stupid. Or, they think that I am stupid enough to believe the lies they tell and, therefore, consent to their ever increasing budgets and the increasing limitations on my freedom their activities achieve.

As I said at the start, I do hope I’m the stupid one because I’m not too comfortable with thinking that our security is in the hands of morons.


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