November 2, 2008

Whoever said writing isn’t a practical profession? I’m amazed by the useful things I learn researching my stories. For instance, in the last few weeks I’ve come across three yards with aconite growing within reach of the street.

Don’t know what aconite is? It’s a deadly poison, also known as monkshood. All parts of this plant are lethal, and if you pick it with a cut on your hand, you might die. If you ate even a tiny piece of it, you definitely would. A year ago I wouldn’t have known what it looked like, but I do after having written my literary thriller, LAKE ON THE MOUNTAIN.

Once you know what they look like, the (usually) deep blue flowers are easy to spot because they resemble miniature bishop’s caps or those peaked hoods medieval monks wore. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Aconitum_variegatum_110807f.jpg) Some of the more virulent varieties are blooming now and will keep doing so until the frost kills them.

We know not to eat mushrooms in the wild, but few of us would hesitate to pick flowers. When I point it out, most people are shocked to learn what they have growing in places accessible to both children and pets (not to mention unwary gardeners!)

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