The Phuket News Premier League predictions The Phuket News Kata Rocks The Phuket News
The Phuket News Phuket Environment
The Phuket News Arts | Community | Culture | Dining | Education | Phuket Entertainment | Environment | Health | People | Technology | Travel | World Entertainment XML, RSS, Feed
The Phuket News The Phuket News
The Phuket News

Phuket Gardening: Lovely but lethal tropical plants

A reader recently wrote to me about the poisonous propensities of the nerium or oleander. I replied, noting how the goats tethered next door to my garden in Spain – and goats will eat almost anything – had always refused to touch my oleander hedge.


Patrick Campbell

Saturday 9 December 2017, 10:00AM


Quite properly, the writer wanted to remind us about the shrub, citing the case of a family who became seriously ill after inhaling smoke from a bonfire containing oleander branches. Highly poisonous. Even the latex can give you a nasty rash.

Of course, when you are stocking a garden, one of many decisions facing you may be about growing poisonous shrubs. It is of course a personal choice and may well depend on whether or not you have young children or pets.

But one of the more extraordinary facts about tropical plants is that they are, for the most part, either toxic or edible. Some food plants here, like cassava for example, have it both ways: they are both poisonous when raw, and safe to eat when cooked.

On the other hand, those of us who come from temperate climes know that not many wild fruits are seriously edible, apart from blackberries and a range of autumnal nuts (at a pinch you could include crab apples, sloe berries and hips).

But we also know that little we encounter will be seriously poisonous, apart from the glossy purple berries of the deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna). And while other toxic plants such as the foxglove (digitalis) or members of the wolfsbane family, as well as deadly fungi such as the fly agaric, do indeed exist (even the humble buttercup and cowslip can be harmful if ingested), we are unlikely to sample them in a salad.

Not so in Thailand. Lost in a rainforest, you would hardly die of starvation: many of the hybrid plants we now cultivate – bananas, mangoes, sator, breadfruit, tamarind – have always existed as species in tropical jungles. If you could know which ones were edible, you could even survive on leaves. But you could also die, and not just from a cobra or krait bite, but from ingesting the wrong bits of the wrong plant.

To return to the oleander. A member of the apocynaceae or wolfbane family, most are toxic, including two of my favourite plants: Allamanda cathartica (yellow trumpet), and Thevetia peruviana (yellow oleander). Both contain indoid lactone, a potentially fatal cathartic. If you do decide to grow them – as I have – remember to avoid contact with the milky latex when you prune the shrub’s excesses, dispose of the large green drupes of Thevetia, and refrain from making a bonfire of cut branches.

Another plant to be careful of is the elephant’s ear or caladium. This massive member of the araceae clan grows everywhere in Thailand where there is moisture and shade. Literally thousands line the mountain road between Kata and Rawai. I once planted a number in my new garden in an endeavour to create instant patches of shade – a tactic doomed to failure, since their natural habitat is marshy jungle. But elephant’s ears are also poisonous and if you cut off those dramatic, sail-like leaves, remember to wash your hands lest you come out in a rash.

Many other understorey plants from tropical forests, usually smaller, are grown commercially, both in European hothouses and under plastic netting in Thai garden centres. Many are poisonous, partly as a defence against the jungle’s browsing animals. For example, the heart’s leaf philodendron contains calcium oxalate; others, potent alkaloids.

Bollywood

Appearances are deceptive. The Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) is a charming little flower related to the indigo blue vinca that lights up European hedgerows. Its pink or white flowers are a familiar presence here: it flourishes in the most unlikely sandy and saline soils. It looks harmless enough, but its glossy leaves contain those very same alkaloids. Odd then that oleander hawk moth caterpillars feast on its foliage.

But the most toxic plant of all is the innocuously named castor oil plant or Ricinus communis. I innocently grew several large specimens in my London garden; even now, my ex-wife has a splendid array in pots on her city balcony.

But without wishing to sound alarmist, the purplish-black berries contain ricin, one of the deadliest poisons known to man, and one used – notoriously – to assassinate Georgi Markov in 1987.

Of course toxic plants are not without their attractions to humanoids as well as caterpillars. As well as looking splendid, a significant number produce hallucinogenic effects when ingested in small quantities – morning glory, brugmansia, and lots more I had better not mention.

But significantly, the chemicals in most of these poisonous plants also provide treatments for all sorts of ailments. The pharmaceutical industry is at last waking up to their huge potential for good.

It is always worth remembering that our gardens are probably more hazardous than we think… Just ensure your children or pets don’t try out these plants.

 

Patrick Campbell has been writing for ten years about gardening in Phuket and allied topics. If you have questions, please contact him at drpaccampbelll@gmail.com or visit his Wordpress blog: Green Galoshes.

 

 

The Phuket News
The Phuket News
Comment on this story
* Please login to comment. If you do not have an account please register below by simply entering a username, password and email address. You can still leave your comment below at the same time.
Comments Here:

Comments Left: Characters
Username:
Password:
E-mail: (No Hotmail, Live, MSN and Outlook accepted at this time)
Security:
   => Forget password?

Be the first to comment.

The Phuket News
The Phuket News The Phuket News The Phuket News
The Phuket News
Share this
The Phuket News
Have a news tip-off? Click here
The Phuket News
Related stories
The Phuket News
Phuket community

Recent Comments


Women smash up pickup blocking their driveway

Someone's lying as the driver says she returned after about 10 mins while the dark destroyers say it was 1 hour according to the report....(Read More)


Phuket Town landslide buries construction workers

On Phuket is a lot of 'land slide experience'. Was this site not under surveillance of Phuket inspectors? Sometimes a child can see that Phu...(Read More)


Honda assures Phuket dealer on its way

In my comment I did not get 'my' 400 characters. Kind greetings....(Read More)


Watch out, PM tells critical graftbuster

When a key member, a chairman of a sub-committee against corruption get lashed out by the Junta prime minister-general, than what is the aim of NCPO? ...(Read More)


Honda assures Phuket dealer on its way

What about the garage that momentarily opened up on the by-pass road opposite Ikea? That wasn't one of the 4 Anuphas garages. Maybe that's why...(Read More)


Women smash up pickup blocking their driveway

As we learn from the Transport Bureau driving license video, it is not allowed to park you car at any time closer than 5 meters to a mail box and car ...(Read More)


Honda assures Phuket dealer on its way

Honda assures Let's hope it is true Chrysler last year made the same promise. Until now, nothing I not understand why Anuphas Honda and new...(Read More)


Women smash up pickup blocking their driveway

Good on them, the back story to this of their father dying as he couldn’t get to hospital when blocked in previously sheds some light on their actio...(Read More)


Slippery road blamed for Phuket tour bus colliding with power pole

Perhaps worn down tires, to fast driving, no knowledge or ignoring of aquaplaning Watch this and learn Aquaplaning - TyreSafe - YouTube (www.youtu...(Read More)


Phuket Int’l Airport responds to air-con complaint

Maybe I am wrong, but wasn't this airport closed for about a year to be revamped? obviously new aircons were missed off the list, like the immigra...(Read More)

The Phuket News
PHUKET NEWS
Phuket
Thailand
World
Business
Q A
Weird World
ARCHIVE
POLL
CURRENCY
WEATHER
PHUKET TIDE TABLE
The Phuket News PHUKET LIFE
Phuket Arts
Phuket Community
Phuket Culture
Phuket Dining
Phuket Education
Phuket Entertainment
Phuket Environment
Phuket Health
Phuket People
Phuket Technology
Phuket Travel
World Entertainment
Photo Galleries
The Phuket News PHUKET SPORT
Phuket
Thailand
World
SURF REPORT
PREDICTIONS
The Phuket News PHUKET CLASSIFIEDS
Phuket Buy and Sell
Phuket Jobs
Phuket Property
Phuket Cars and Boats
Phuket Community
Phuket Services
SEARCH CLASSIFIEDS
POST CLASSIFIED
The Phuket News The Phuket News PHUKET EVENTS
Phuket Event listings
Phuket Event calendar
Buy Tickets
POST EVENT
The Phuket News PHUKET DIRECTORY
Phuket Bars, pubs and clubs
Phuket Hotels and villas
Phuket Restaurants
Phuket Yellow Pages
POST LISTING
The Phuket News BARGAINS
The Phuket News ABOUT US
The Company
Distribution points
Subscribe
Advertise with us
Pay for advert
Contact us
CONTESTS
Content Google Map
Site map
Australian Visa Services
 
Currency - The Phuket News   Weather Report - The Phuket News   Surf Report - The Phuket News
LinkedIn - The Phuket News   Twitter - The Phuket News   YouTube - The Phuket News   Facebook - The Phuket News
Copyright © 2018 Class Act Media. All rights reserved. | Website usage terms and conditions | Privacy and Confidentiality Statement.